New Jacksonville ‘Bright Space’ supports children, families

In Jacksonville, Florida, children and families have a new visitation space designed to provide a dedicated area for families to build stronger bonds, give children a place to play and learn, and encourage and coach positive parenting behaviors.

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The new Bright Space, at the Family Support Services of North Florida in Yulee, was unveiled at a ribbon cutting and ceremony on January 20.

Partners from the public, nonprofit, business and community sectors collaborated to help open the new “Bright Space,” a renovated visitation center for local families at the Family Support Services of North Florida in Yulee.

Casey Family Programs has been working with the Jacksonville Community of Hope for seven years, collaborating with local leaders to build lasting partnerships that strengthen families and the community. During the period between December 2007 and December 2015, the number of children in foster care in Jacksonville and surrounding Duval County decreased by 50 percent, far outpacing the statewide decrease of 8 percent over the same period. During that same time frame, the rate of repeat maltreatment of children within six months was lower than the national standard.

Studies have shown that children thrive when they have a safe place in which to explore the world around them, filled with books and activities that are developmentally appropriate and that provide an opportunity to discover the magic of childhood. Children experiencing trauma especially need access to child-friendly spaces such as these.

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The space was designed and created by the Bright Horizons Foundation for Children, Casey Family Programs and Family Support Services. Volunteers also contributed time, materials and skills to install and construct the improvements. The Bright Spaces program works to improve the lives of children, youth and families experiencing crises by developing Bright Spaces for children at community shelters and agencies. They have created more than 300 Bright Spaces around the country.

Family Support Services is the lead agency for foster care, adoption and family preservation in Nassau and Duval counties. It provides temporary safe haven for children in foster care with a primary goal of safely reunifying families.

The Family Support Services team will use the visitation center to strengthen positive interactions between parents and children, with a goal of reunifying them. They plan to incorporate a therapeutic approach to behavior modification while providing supportive coaching and feedback for parents while they spent quality time with their children.

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