The state of Wyoming may soon have multigenerational resource centers sprinkled throughout the state to help individuals and families with a variety of measures of assistance.. 

The Family Resource Centers would offer a one-stop shop for people to take part in a variety of services, including signing up for SNAP benefits or for health insurance, said Daniell Marks, senior policy advisor for the Wyoming Department of Family Services.

The goal of the program is to prevent people from having to travel long distances or spend a lot of time interacting with many different agencies. 

“This vision for supporting Family Resource Centers across the state of Wyoming was born out of the governor’s health task force. And that health task force came about during the pandemic,” Marks told the Daily Yonder. 

Initially, the task force was focused on adequate PPE and other immediate needs related to the pandemic. As it has subsided, the members continued to meet and discuss what was needed throughout the state. 

“Family Resource Centers, at the root, are about strengthening communities and families,” she said. “But they can take a lot of different forms. So we thought a network that brought different community resource centers together would be helpful as they really decide what works for them.”

“In one county, it might mean that they work with all the health and human services providers in their area to co-locate. So maybe they find a bigger building where they can have their SNAP program, where they can have public health nursing all in one place,” she said.” So that the community members do not need to travel great distances, or have to bounce around between multiple providers or resources to get what they need. Another community might choose to set up a temporary space in a library where once a week, all of the entities come and have tables set up to help with applications.”

The second part of the program is envisioned to give each community grant money to hire a navigator for community members to utilize.

“Family Resource Centers are partly about co-location of resources,” she said. “But a lot of families need that warm handoff, that warm support, so that they’re not just provided a phone number, they’re not just provided a brochure. So we envision supporting communities, depending on what funding is available, with mini grants for a period of at least two years. And during those two years, they would receive support, training and technical assistance from the network. And the hope is that we would evaluate the success of those grant programs and be able to communicate more broadly about the value of human resource centers and hopefully scale up and expand statewide.”

The statewide network is tentatively titled Wyoming Community Access Network. Marks said Family Resource Centers across the United States share six uniform program design features that research and evaluation associate with effective prevention of child abuse and neglect and positive outcomes for families. They are: deliver flexible services responsive to families and to the community; are universally available with no eligibility criteria; provide welcoming and accessible places in the community; offer comprehensive, varied, and integrated services; link families to other local resources; and partner with families and other community services. 

“There is some evidence that shows that when provided support in this way through co-location that we can strengthen families and communities and ultimately, if resources are provided, when and where people and especially families need them, their likelihood of needing to be involved formally in the child protective system may decline,”Marks said. “So that’s where it was born out of really that the area the literature around preventing child abuse and neglect.”

The proposal will go before the Legislature in January, but if for some reason it doesn’t go anywhere, there may be other funding mechanisms as well, including philanthropic, she added.

If funding is approved, it would cover a Family Resource Center in each county and on each Native American reservation, she said. 

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