Family support centers are a critical lifeline to struggling families | Opinion

June 12, 2019 6:30 am

(Capital-Star photo by Sarah Anne Hughes)

By Austin Davis

When news first broke in early May about a state Department of Human Services’ solicitation that could have resulted in the closing of numerous family support centers in Allegheny County, I immediately thought about the Mon Valley families who would be adversely affected by this decision.

Thankfully, the outcry from parents, advocates and state legislators in Allegheny County caught the attention of Gov. Tom Wolf, who brought the proposed change in funding to an immediate halt.

I first want to thank Gov. Wolf for hearing our concerns. The proposed limitation of funding for facilities across Allegheny County, and the possible closing of certain centers – like those located in Clairton, Duquesne and McKeesport – would have had irreversible impact on our most vulnerable citizens.

Without this reversal, it’s estimated that centers in Clairton, Duquesne, Homestead, McKeesport, McKees Rocks, Penn Hills, Tarentum, Wilkinsburg, Wilmerding, and in the Hazelwood neighborhood of Pittsburgh collectively would have been dealt a $1.3 million cut that would have only provided adequate funding for two of the 10 centers.

This would have left so many families who depend on these critical services with no support and no options. These family centers, operated by the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, are safe havens for families with young children. They offer a variety of programs, including parenting classes, child health and development screenings, fatherhood programs, child abuse prevention, and home visiting for new or expectant mothers.

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It’s facilities and programs like these that give Pennsylvania families a ladder of opportunity to pull themselves out of poverty. It gives all families, especially those who need it most, the resources they need to prosper and grow!

If we as a commonwealth want to continue to lead by example and ensure Pennsylvania is a place where all families can succeed, we need to guarantee that we continue to make investments in programs that focus on lifting families out of poverty and provide them with opportunities to succeed.

As a state legislator, I took an oath to do what was best for all Pennsylvanians. No family should be left behind, and I’m grateful the governor put a stop to a decision that would have been detrimental to many families in Allegheny County.

State Rep. Austin Davis, a Democrat, represents the Allegheny County-based 35th House District. He writes from Harrisburg.

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