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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Mt. Vernon pilot program aims to improve children's services

Fairfax County is expected to implement a pilot program in Mount Vernon next fall that could serve as a model for how the county provides social services to children.

Based on the U.S. Department of Education's Promise Neighborhoods model, which aims to build a better support network for students in rural or distressed communities, the pilot program will seek to better coordinate services for children through county schools, the court system and foster care programs.

The goal is to make Fairfax County's system less cumbersome for families that need help, resulting in quicker interventions and better outcomes for children and families, said Deputy County Executive Patricia Harrison.

Practical examples of changes in the county system include using a single evaluation process to assess all of a family's needs, and training county and schools staff members so they are apprised of a family's situation.

The program will be in place for the next school year at Mount Vernon pyramid schools. For information on Promise Neighborhoods, visit www2.ed.gov/programs/promiseneighborhoods.

County monitoring impact of potential federal cuts

As Congress works on passing a final federal budget for fiscal 2011, Fairfax County staff members are keeping an eye on cuts that could affect the county's bottom line.

In the area of housing, the House of Representatives' proposed 62 percent cut in Community Development Block Grant funding would cost the county about $4 million, according to Housing and Community Development Director Paula Sampson.

Proposed cuts to five other federal housing programs, including the housing choice vouchers, would take an additional $1.6 million from county coffers, according to staff estimates. In recent years, Fairfax has used the money to help low- and moderate-income residents find housing, as well as address blight issues that pose a threat to the health or welfare of the community.

"What we've presented [to the Board of Supervisors] is the worst-case scenario," Sampson said, adding that the block grants represent flexible funding that the county uses in a wide variety of ways.

"We leverage this money big time with county dollars, with nonprofits, with businesses," Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova (D) said. "This is valuable money that would be lost."

Bulova suggested the county write a letter to congressional representatives explaining how they use the block grant funding and what the loss would mean to the county.

- Fairfax County Times


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