Firefly Children and Family Alliance is the largest child-abuse prevention provider in central Indiana. Through one of their many programs, called Community Partners for Child Safety (CPCS), they offer safe-sleep workshops and car-seat safety programs. They also help people locate transportation services, find employment and access community resources. Plus, they can help individuals learn how to set a budget, seek mental-health services and increase their knowledge of parenting skills.
“It’s all about keeping children safe,” says Ben Abels, a director at Firefly.
One major misconception about Firefly is that the CPCS program does what the Department of Child Services does. “Actually, it’s exactly the opposite,” Abels says. “We do everything we can to keep kids safe and in the home.”
Firefly (formerly Children’s Bureau) merged about a year ago with a company called Families First, based out of Indy. Through the years, Children’s Bureau and Families First helped shape human services in central Indiana, as they were two of Indiana’s most established nonprofits, with roots dating back more than 185 years.
Uniting as one organization enables the entities to share resources and expertise, thereby creating a greater impact in order to better serve the community. It’s divided into seven regions that serve Indiana counties. Abels is the director of Region 9, which covers Hendricks, Boone, Montgomery, Putnam, Morgan and Henry counties.
The organization works with almost anyone. The only two factors that exclude participation are if someone has no child in their home from 0 to 17 years of age, or if someone has a child on probation.
“I’ve never known any program like this,” Abels says. “There’s not a lot that we can’t do.”
For instance, they have paid for kids’ summer camps. They have also helped to find tutoring for students. It depends on the family’s needs.
“If we have a family who is struggling with paying their utility bill or has some kind of need, we will ask our community partners like Family Promise, Hendricks County Community Foundation, or area churches to help,” Abels says. “Our partners are a big help. We have really relied on them.”
Firefly deals with a lot of guardianship cases in which a parent gets arrested, and goes to jail or rehab. Rather than letting a child get thrown into the legal system, Firefly’s CPCS program members step in to petition the court for guardianship, so the grandparents can care for their grandchildren.
“We’ve had some really successful guardianship cases,” Abels says. “We have also had a lot of success stories that have to do with helping people establish housing after leaving a domestic-violence shelter.”
Currently, Firefly offers several classes touching on topics including parenting (kinship) and domestic violence. In the future they may offer some tutoring options as well.
“The kinship classes are so great because we have a lot of grandparents raising grandkids right now,” Abels says. “Many struggle with how to safely navigate the internet. They also aren’t up to date on the lingo in social media, so we talk about trends.”
In December Firefly organizes Hope for the Holidays, which involves a virtual Christmas tree. Liaisons meet with their client families to learn what their children are interested in with regard to books, clothes and games. Immediately following Black Friday, Hope for the Holidays goes live and people can click on a tree and sponsor a family.
“Folks can buy gifts for the family and drop them off at our office during the first two weeks in December,” Abels says. “Everything is bagged up and delivered the week before Christmas.”
Firefly gets referrals from schools, community centers, hospitals, doctors, churches and other organizations. Once Abels receives a referral, he assigns a case manager who will then come out and meet one-on-one with the person to create goals. Those goals can be expansive. Sometimes referrals are given for people who are facing an eviction and need to find housing. Someone may need to find employment, get food stamps, figure out Medicaid or seek mental-health counseling. This voluntary case counseling lasts between one and three months, but in some cases, only one meeting may occur.
Statistics tell the story, as 99% of families who have received services within the CPCS program have no reports of abuse or neglect for 12 months following the close of service.
“There really is no reason not to sign up because the program is totally free, regardless of how much money you make,” Abels says. “We just care about keeping kids safe.”
If you would like to donate items to Firefly, feel free to drop off new or gently used clothing, winter coats, diapers, toys, baby wipes, and other baby safety items. To make a monetary donation, and for more information, visit fireflyin.org.