Ardith Harmon, Family to Family Coordinator.Family to Family is a family-centered and neighborhood-based structure of foster care which promotes permanence for all Missouri children. The organization aims to protect children from abuse and neglect; assuring their safety and well-being by partnering with families, communities and government in a responsible manner.

“Family to Family is a child welfare reform movement that looks at the best outcomes for children and their families in the foster care system,” said Ardith Harmon, Family to Family Coordinator.

The organization was established in May 2000 after a City of St. Louis initiative was launched by The Annie E. Casey Foundation to change the child welfare system. Family to Family is housed under the Missouri Department of Social Services, Children’s Division.

Harmon said Family to Family applies four principles: a child’s safety is paramount, children belong in families, families need strong communities, and public child welfare systems need partnerships with the community and with other systems to achieve strong outcomes for children.

In order to focus on its mission around foster care, Family to Family looks to ARCHS to serve as its fiscal agent.

“Through ARCHS, we are able to move money out into the community the way The Annie E. Casey Foundation planned, but also in a fiscally sound way. If we were to pursue additional funding opportunities with separate agencies, we can refer back to ARCHS’ work and show that our funds were managed appropriately,” Harmon said. “As social workers, that would have been hard to do without ARCHS. We have quick accessibility to the funding; we have accurate reports on the funding that we can share with Annie Casey to make sure they know we are responsible with their money.”

Family to Family shows its fiscal responsibility with its funding by using the guided principles of prevention, protection, preservation, partnership, practice, permanency and professionalism. And its guiding principles have proved to be a great success because when Family to Family was established in 2000, there were 2,875 children in foster care in the City of St. Louis. Now, the number has decreased significantly to 805. A recent success is the opening of a “visitation centers” in north and south St. Louis, where children can meet with their birth parents in a safe family setting.

The last grant dollars Family to Family has will be gone this March. The organization will tackle the transition to make sure they are there to serve foster children and their families for the City of St. Louis.

“The funding was never meant to be permanent. It was meant to get us going and become self sustaining,” Harmon said. “We have established many partnerships that will support us, and we will continue to support them.”