The Front Porch
Chatham County, Georgia
Interview with Brenda Davis, Director

How are youth referred to your center?  Referrals are made to The Front Porch from the Juvenile Court, self-referrals, Savannah Chatham County Public Schools, local law enforcement, Homeless Authority, Department of Family and Children Services.  We opened doors October 2018 and to date we have served 465 youth and families.

What data and outcomes does does The Front Porch track? We track the number of youth receiving assessments, the number of referrals to behavioral health providers, number of referrals to pro-social activities, number of unduplicated clients referred to The Front Porch, and number of youth completing program in 90 days.  Completion is defined as whether youth and families are connected and engaged in the services.

What is the biggest challenge your assessment center faces? The biggest challenge The Front Porch faced was when the pandemic started. The number of referrals during the beginning of the pandemic (March 2020) decreased our referrals significantly. As a result, a lot of outreach was done to make sure that the community we serve knew we were still open for business. Since then, our referral numbers have been increasingly better; some months even better than the year before.

What is your favorite tool used in an assessment and why? We use the Pediatric Symptoms Checklist assessment tool. It’s a brief questionnaire that helps identify and assess changes in emotional and behavioral problems in children.  I like this tool because it is brief and the questions are youth friendly. Also, the scores determine if clients are at risk for conduct issues, attention problems and issues with anxiety and/or depression. These scores help guide staff with making appropriate referrals.

What is the process your center uses to ensure youth are connected and matched with services after an assessment? Based on the outcome of the screening & assessments, to include whatever families say they need, referrals are sent out to appropriate providers. Once a week, a collaborative meeting is held with all involved parties (i.e. all case managers, mental health/medical providers, educational advocate, Juvenile Court) to discuss referrals and brainstorm around any additional needs.

How does your center divert youth from the JJ system? The Front Porch is a Risk Reduction Program established to divert youth who would otherwise be referred to the Court for delinquency, dependency, and Children in Need of Services (CHINS). The Juvenile Court has a Diversion Program where Probation staff review cases weekly to determine what cases can be diverted to The Front Porch. In addition, we educate our law enforcement partners on using their discretion to divert cases from JJ and making referrals to The Front Porch.

What are you looking forward to most with the development of the NAC? I am looking forward to the networking and brainstorming with other assessment centers as to how they operate. The Front Porch is in the process of developing a Standard Operating Procedure which will outline the referral process which includes timelines to completing screening and assessment so that we can engage children and families quickly and link them to services as expeditiously as possible. I look forward to talking with other centers as to whether they have a case management system and a tool to evaluate outcomes.

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