The West Feliciana Parish Family Service Center was created on the concept that children benefit the most from their education when they are sound in body and in mind, and when they have strong family support.
The Family Service Center promotes confidence and competence in parents, encourages healthy growth and development in children, and enhances the well being of the family as a whole, through family-centered services.
The Family Service Center focuses of four components of family literacy: Early Childhood Education, Parent Education, Adult Education, and Parent-Child Literacy Education.
Pam Wall, a licensed clinical social worker with the Family Service Center, deals with nearly every aspect of the center in one way or another. “I like to think that I work cooperatively within the center. We are here to support the children and their families so they can be academically successful,” said Wall.
The Family Service Center has a number of different programs that operate out of it, but each of them operates in collaboration with one another.
The Family Service Center offers a school based health center that provides both mental health and physical health services to students.
The early childhood program, which includes Early Head Start and Head Start, works closely with the health center since one of Head Starts primary focuses is on health. They want to make sure students are physically and emotionally healthy.
The adult education and family literacy program serves many of the parents of children that are enrolled in Head Start, but it also serves the community as a whole.
“One of the things that we do and have done for many years is the internship program with LSU. We have worked with LSU for 12 to15 years,” said Wall. The LSU School of Social Work really focuses heavily on their internship program. “It’s one of the things that makes them so successful,” said Wall. The Family Service Center likes to be affiliated with them because it helps students build leadership in the field of social work. “The students get hands on practice here and it is really building the leadership capacity for our local community and for the state,” said Wall.
Currently, Tracie Ralph is the LSU Intern in West Feliciana. The Family Service Center interns come for one full school year and could be a first or second year students. Ralph shadows Wall and is assigned students to work with, which provides her not only with experience, but it also provides additional services that the Family Service Center is able to offer. With the help of the interns, the Family Service Center can see more students throughout the year. “It is a win-win situation for LSU and the Family Service Center,” said Wall. Ralph is in her first year of graduate school at LSU and is at the Family Service Center as a MSW Intern. “I just graduated with my undergrad in May, so jumped right back in! The walk across the stage was enough of a break for me,” said Ralph eagerly.
In the adult and family literacy program within the Family Service Center, social workers provide parent education. Some of it consists of formal parent education classes. “The Family Service Center has really been on the forefront in providing parent education in our community,” said Wall.
The Family Service Center has also been very involved in the formation of a statewide parent education network called LAPEN, which stands for LA Parent Education Network. Basically, the goal of LAPEN is to increase the professionalism of parenting education that is provided throughout the state. For more information about LAPEN, visit www.LAPEN.org.
Within the Early Head Start and Head Start childhood programs, Wall screens all incoming children for any social or emotional issues. If anything needs to be addressed, the Family Service Center works with the parents to see what they need to do and whether they need a referral, counseling, or parent education.
Within the school based health center, Wall provides counseling to students. Most of the students she sees are at the lower elementary school, but she does travel to the other schools when necessary. “We take the services to the children, which makes it very convenient and accessible to them,” said Wall. Parents must complete a consent form before students can receive any kind of services. Generally, students bring home a consent form at the beginning of the school year and parents fill it out and return it to school. “We want to include the family in everything that we do; that is so important,” said Wall.
The family literacy program is for families who have young children in Head Start or Early Head Start. They receive parent education; attend adult education classes, work on getting their G.E.D, and/or work on literacy skills. There are also structured parent/child activity times when parents can participate in educational activities with their children.
“A parent can come to the Family Service Center and talk to us about what is going on with their child. Depending what the concern is, we will give them information and/or direction,” said Wall.
“Since the Family Service Center has been here for such a long time, about 20 years, people in the parish have become used to it being a part of the school system. They feel very comfortable coming here and taking advantage of the programs we offer,” said Wall. “The Family Service Center is for students and their families. People feel comfortable coming in because they know we will establish a relationship with them to provide them with resources or direct them to the resources they need,” said Wall.
It is apparent that the Family Service Center has had a tremendous impact on the community. “I love working with students and parents. I love talking to parents. They come in with a lot of concerns, oftentimes, and it just takes giving them a little bit of information to make things so much better for them. It is very rewarding,” said Wall. She said it is also rewarding to watch the Early Head Start babies move up through the school system.
The Family Service Center is located inside Bains Lower Elementary School in St. Francisville and can be contacted by calling 225-635-5299.