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State praises county's Family Protection Team

By CARY DAVIS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 4, 2003

NEW PORT RICHEY -- Two Pasco programs geared toward protecting children and improving the lives of families recently received high marks on a state review.

The county's Child Protective Team and Healthy Families Pasco were praised by state monitors as being among the best programs of their kind in Florida, officials with the two agencies said Monday.

The two programs are part of the Pasco Family Protection Team, a network of agencies working together to investigate child abuse and support young families.

The Child Protective Team operates under a contract with the Pasco County Sheriff's Office. The agency collaborates with the Sheriff's Office in cases of physical and sexual abuse involving children, providing such services as assessment interviews and medical exams.

A state review of 50 cases found that the CPT team routinely exceeded state guidelines for the quality and timeliness of service. Reviewers also praised supervisors for their diligent oversight.

"It says we're doing a superior job," said Jon Wisenbaker, the CPT's clinical supervisor.

Healthy Families Pasco is a support program for pregnant women and parents of newborns. State reviewers called the program a "leader" in Florida and praised the "highly skilled, warm and professional" staff.

Rick Hess, executive director of the Pasco Family Protection Team, said the high marks demonstrate what can be accomplished with adequate funding. He urged lawmakers, as they look for areas to trim the state budget, not to cut services for children in danger.

"The loss of funding in these programs would be very difficult for us to bear," Hess said.

The positive reviews mark a dramatic turnaround for the Pasco Family Protection Team. In 2001 the agency was placed on probation by the state after receiving "unacceptable" marks on a review.

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