Using a school as its hub, the Bester Community of Hope works to strengthen families

How can a community challenged with high removal rates of children due to abuse or neglect become a Community of Hope? For the Bester community in Hagerstown, Maryland, the answer lies in overhauling its approach to strengthening families and keeping children safe.

The San Mar Children’s Home, a group home facility for youth in foster care, asked itself if there might be a better way to help families and provide support before children need to be removed. They began working with Casey Family Programs to demonstrate a new approach to child welfare in the Hagerstown area. After securing additional investments and enlisting the support and buy-in of other partners, including the principal of Bester Elementary School, San Mar decided to close its residential programs and instead focus on a full-service, preventive approach to helping families, with the school as the hub.

Bester Elementary is a natural point of connection for its 600 students and their families. Within the building, a food pantry, free community health clinic and an afterschool program, as well as on-site case management and coordinated services, are available. A new school counselor, a school–family liaison and the administrative team are all connected to the Bester Community of Hope network. The school has brought in special guests, including Olympic athletes and astronauts, to raise the hopes and dreams of its children. And the community partnership continues to focus on ways to strengthen families and improve their outcomes.

To learn more about how the Bester area is building a Community of Hope and strengthening families, read this short report.