The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department said Thursday it will close four of 10 centers that teach parenting skills and provide other family services, after it lost more than a quarter of its funding for the programs.
The agency said the closures were needed after $626,000 was cut from its $2.1 million annual family support services budget – a result of a contract with the state Children’s Administration that ended Dec. 31.
Through the arrangement, the Health Department made home visits to teach parenting skills as part of the Early Family Support Service contact, but did not work with any active Child Protective Services cases.
The facilities in Puyallup, Lakewood, Parkland and the Hilltop area of Tacoma will close Feb. 28. Centers for all Pierce County residents will remain in Bethel, Sumner, Orting, on the Key Peninsula, in the Eastside of Tacoma and in the White River area.
A Health Department task force chose to keep those centers open, because that keeps services accessible to the most people in need, the agency said. The centers also provide information about maternity services, healthy pregnancy and applying for state benefits, among other topics.
It’s hard to say how many people use the family services, because the Health Department does not track the number of visitors to the centers, spokeswoman Edie Jeffers said. People can seek the services independently and are also referred from a number of sources.
Jeffers said 786 families were referred to the agency in 2012 through the Children’s Administration contract. Referrals stopped Oct. 31 because of the impending end of the contract; in the first 10 months of that year 519 families were referred.
“Fewer centers is fewer centers, and that’s the hard part,” Jeffers said about the closures.
She added that almost all workers at the closing centers have found other jobs with their employer.
Alexis Krell: 253-597-8268