Project SAFE, Everett, WA

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Best Practice | August 11, 2006

Best Practice -- Establishing Emergency Prevention Programs

Project SAFE - resources for parents of teens was initiated in 1999 to prevent teen homelessness in Snohomish County Washington. Project SAFE offers three services to parents/caretakers of teens: phone consultation, groups and workshops, and a resource library. Parent/caretakers who are concerned about their teen can call and speak with a therapist who provides consultation and links to various resources in the community. They then receive a follow-up phone call, can opt to participate in support and educational workshops, and have access to project SAFE newsletters, "tip sheets" and other resource library materials.

Target Population

Project SAFE serves parents and caretakers of youth who are currently, or may be in the future, at risk of homelessness due to a number of problematic behaviors. Project SAFE also works with parents of younger children to address problematic behaviors early on to curtail teen homelessness. Interventions in every phase of the project are based on research identifying the parental risk factors that often lead to teen homelessness including teen substance abuse, violence and criminal acts, mental illness, promiscuity, running away and/or exposure to abuse and neglect.

History

Project SAFE was started as a pilot project of Cocoon House, Snohomish County's only provider of services to runaway and homeless youth. Cocoon House was founded in 1991 as an 8-bed shelter for youth age 13-17. The shelter serves both rural and urban areas and provides short-term housing. When possible teens are reunified with their families.

When reunification is not possible, and when all other housing options have been exhausted, the teens can move to the Cocoon Complex, a 20 bed transitional housing program that was added in 1994.

In 1998 Cocoon House was chosen by Snohomish County to take over the management of the County's Teen Advocates Program, which aims to provide disconnected youth with linkages to essential services and resources.

During the late 1990s, an increasing number of distressed parents and caretakers whose teens were not currently at Cocoon
House were calling seeking advice and referral about their youth. Many were ready to drop their teen off at Cocoon's Shelter because they felt they had no alternative.

Recognizing the growing number of homeless youth and parents seeking assistance, Cocoon House saw the importance of moving upstream to prevent the number of youth showing up at Cocoon House for housing and supportive services. Project SAFE was born to address this critical need.

Services

Phone-line consultation: Parents can call Project SAFE and consult with a Master's level therapist. Conversations typically last 45 minutes to one hour. Together, the parents and therapist develop an action plan, and decide what resources are needed to carry it out. In addition to parenting strategies, action plans include steps to help parents deal with their own depression or other issues, especially self-care contributing to their conflict with their teens. A follow-up call is made to parents, usually one week later, to check on their situation, maintain connections, and provide additional referrals if needed.

Groups and Workshops
In addition to consultations, Project SAFE operates support groups and workshops. The groups work on communication, empathy, problem solving, and other cognitive behavioral skills to promote healthier family functioning.

Resource Library

A resource library offers books and video materials to parents and caretakers. Project SAFE staff is developing summaries or "tip sheets" that condense longer books into simple, digestible information. A newsletter is also available describing resources while also providing quick tips for parents.

Presentations

Project SAFE also gives regular presentations both in house and in the community. Workshop and group materials are developed based on input from Cocoon House staff, teens and in collaboration with other community players such as guidance counselors, juvenile corrections officials, housing providers, and early intervention programs. The presentations focus on raising awareness of parental risk factors that contribute to teen problematic behaviors and developing multiple protective factors to promote healthier family functioning and to prevent teen homelessness.

Funding

Cocoon House receives funding for their $1.3 million budget through federal and regional government grants, such as HUD McKinney Supportive Housing Program, ACF Runaway and Homeless Youth Transitional Living Program, Community Service and Community Development Block Grants. Key corporate and foundation supporters include The Boeing Company, Medina Foundation, Paul G. Allen Foundation, and Everett Clinic Foundation. Cocoon also receives funding from community organizations and individuals.

Project SAFE is funded by: Boeing, Whitehorse Foundation, Washington Alliance to Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect, Everett Clinic Foundation, and Butler Trust.

Outcome Data

In FY 2001, Cocoon House provided housing to more than 260 teens. 78% of youth left the shelter program for positive housing situations. 91% of Cocoon Complex residents attended school, graduated, or completed a GED and over 90% received mental health counseling, drug and alcohol services, and life skills training. The Teen Advocate Program served 350 clients, and reached more than 1,000 individuals through outreach presentations.

In FY 2001, project SAFE served approximately 100 parent/caretakers, 250 community members through presentation, and distributed over 1,000 pieces of project SAFE produced literature and materials.

Initial project SAFE outcome data shows significant positive outcomes in parental/caretaker perception of improved ability to cope with their youth as well as a significant decrease in parental perception of the youth having to leave the home.

As one project SAFE recipient stated, "I am so thankful I made the phone call [to project SAFE] out of total desperation. I was ready to drop my son off at the shelter. I didn't have to do that or call an abuse hotline saying I just hit my kid. This program [project SAFE] showed me solutions with a lot of compassion and understanding. I was so afraid I was doing something wrong. I thought the situation with my son was hopeless. I learned that the situation was not hopeless and I was doing a lot just fine."

For More Information Contact

Nancy Gagliano or Patrice Janda or Nacy Fairbanks
Project SAFE
2929 Pine Street
Everett, Washington 98201
Tel: 425-317-9898
Email: Project.safe@cocoonhouse.org