ACEs Aware Series

Investing in our Children / Invirtiendo en Nuestros Niños

Families Together

Families Together helps prevent child maltreatment by responding early to reports of abuse and neglect received by Family and Children's Services. Encompasss Community Services is the lead agency, collaborating with partners such as Family and Children's Services, (a division of the Human Services Department), Health Services Agency, and Families in Transition.


While we’ve made recent progress in decreasing the risk of abuse in vulnerable families, Santa Cruz County historically has had higher rates of child abuse and neglect than any other Bay Area county.

Of all the referrals to the child welfare screening unit, only about 8% meet the necessary criteria to receive services from FCS. Before Families Together, too many children were left without help while family problems worsened. Now, early intervention is here to help before family difficulties escalate to the level of maltreatment. Children are safer and families are supporting healthier child development.


A home visiting program includes:

  • Comprehensive intake and risk assessment
  • Development of a tailored case plan
  • Parent support and education
  • Child development activities
  • Follow-up risk assessments

Participating families are encouraged to identify goals and objectives to support:

  • Healthy family relationships
  • Child health and safety
  • Positive parenting
  • Family literacy
  • School readiness


Families are referred through the child welfare system. They participate in Families Together voluntarily. A total of 205 children (0-5)  and 156 parents received some kind of services in 2013-2014.


Reduced rates of child abuse and neglect. The rate of substantiated allegations of child maltreatment in Santa Cruz County has decreased from a high of 16.2 (per 1,000) in 2004, to 7.4 (per 1,000) in 2013. The decreasing rates in Santa Cruz County may have been assisted by the efforts of the Families Together program, which launched in late 2006.

Reduction of risk. Of the families who have participated in Families Together since 2007-08, 61% of families were assessed as being “high risk” or “very high risk” upon intake. This dropped to 13% by the second reassessment, indicating that the program is helping families reduce their level of risk.

Reduced rates of recurrence of abuse.

Of the 56 families who received services from Families Together and had their cases closed in the 2013 calendar year:

  • 98% did not have a substantiated allegation of maltreatment within six months after case closure. This figure is comparable to what was observed in the previous years.
  • An additional study found that 18% had been re-referred to child welfare within six months after their exit from Families Together.

These results indicate that although some families are re-referred to child welfare after exiting from Families Together, the rate of substantiated abuse is low. This suggests that even though families are still experiencing high risk factors that lead to a child welfare report, they may have gained skills and resources during their participation in Families Together that prevent court-mandated involvement with child welfare.