Project First Step

Is it possible to reduce the incidence of developmental disabilities by designing a program aimed at disability prevention? The answer is a resounding “Yes!”  Project First Step is a unique program offering multiple services to pregnant women, young children, and families in need. Clients include pregnant women with disabilities or women who are at risk for delivering a baby with disabilities, families coping with an infant with special needs, parents lacking adequate parenting skills that could result in an unsafe home environment, or families seeking reunification through the Office of Children and Youth.

Project First Step (PProject First Step at EHCA in Erie, PAFS) serves the highest-risk individuals and families in the community. Staff members frequently work with clients living 300 percent below the poverty level, many of whom are dealing with additional stressors of physical or intellectual disabilities, homelessness, domestic violence, drug or alcohol dependency, or mental health issues. PFS takes a hands-on approach and tailors services to the needs of each family. Its Enhanced Family and Doula Services component posts an 96.4 percent success rate, meaning that PFS’s intervention and specialized support services have achieved a birth rate for healthy, full-term babies within a high-risk population equivalent to the rate in the general population. Other PFS goals include providing support services to ensure safe and healthy home environments and working with social service agencies to maintain family stability and unity.

The annual cost of providing care for an individual with disabilities in a group home is approximately $135,000, primarily covered by Medicaid funding. The annual cost per family for providing PFS services ranges from $2,800 to $3,500. However, PFS does not receive federal funding because it is a preventative program, not a medical service. As a result, PFS relies heavily on grants and donations from community supporters.

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You can help Project First Step reduce the number of babies born with developmental disabilities. Donate to Project First Step today »