Pinebrook Family Services

by Jennifer LoConte

Pinebrook Family Services, now in its 31st year, is a non-profit organization dedicated to children and their families. What began in 1979 as diagnostic foster care has blossomed into a full-service agency that strives to keep families together while meeting clients’ diverse needs. Its mission is “to promote the well-being and self-sufficiency of children, young adults and families in our communities by providing the highest quality prevention, treatment and advocacy services.” Each year, Pinebrook helps over 2,000 children and families through behavioral health services, community-based services, adoption and foster care.

Robert Jacobs, Executive Director, has been with Pinebrook for 25 years, initially as a foster care caseworker. He says, “For many years, foster care was our focus but as public policy changed, so did our organization. We remain dedicated to placement services and adoption, but family stability is imperative. Through intensive individual and family treatment programs, we strive to keep families together.” In the past, foster care accounted for 80% of Pinebrook’s services, compared to 9% in 2009.

Behavioral health services are offered to children from ages three to 18, young adults to age 27 and their families. Last year, over 1,300 children and families received these services, which accounted for 77% of Pinebrook’s work. Treatment is provided on an outpatient basis as well as in the home and includes an array of services like individual and family counseling, psychiatric services, family-based mental health services, and a new program called High Fidelity Wraparound. Jacobs says, “This is an evidence-based initiative that supports the complex needs of 14 to 17 year-olds and their families and may require several areas of service and support.” For example, when Janet’s* daughter was receiving services, Janet discovered her own traumatic issues stemming from domestic violence. With the help of Pinebrook’s licensed professionals and therapists, Janet and her daughter are now living independent and happy.

Making The Grade is a 90-day community-based truancy reduction program that supports late elementary and middle school students. For the first two years, Making The Grade served the Allentown school district, but this year, the program has expanded to additional Lehigh and Northampton County schools. After skipping school and making poor grades, a client named Matt* was referred to the program by a school counselor. Matt’s mother was dealing with mental health issues and was unable to care for herself or her children. Matt would stay home to help around the house or to take care of Mom or his siblings. After completing the program, Matt’s attendance and grades improved and he gained confidence to make new friends and try out for school sports teams. Michele Connelly, Director of Development says, “If we can engage parents and family, we can help reduce truancy which will lead to better attendance and school performance and reduce risk factors of dropping out of school, violence and poverty.”

Pinebrook also provides special needs, domestic and international adoption services. They are affiliated with the Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network (SWAN) to provide specialized services to children in need of an adoptive family, as well as to families interested in adopting special-needs children. Last year, 85 families through SWAN were served by Pinebrook and 24 children were welcomed into their forever families. Jacobs explains that the length of time it takes to adopt a child can vary from 15 months to two years. He says, “Each family must go through a rigorous home study program and there is an extensive amount of behind-the-scenes work that takes place.” (If you are interested in learning more about the adoption process, contact Mindy Watson, program supervisor at

Pinebrook’s Placement Services has been recognized as one of the area’s leading foster care agencies. Children are assigned a caseworker and receive supportive services depending on what type of care they need (traditional, specialized, intensive, short-term or medical). The Transportation and Family Visitation Program provides transportation and supervision between youth and their non-custodial parents. On one occasion, Pinebrook staff drove local parents to Pittsburgh for child visitation. They also provided transportation for a young man who required specialized medical care in Philadelphia. Last year alone, over 130,000 miles were driven!

Each November, Pinebrook holds their largest fundraiser, an annual luncheon to honor families and their children. It includes a silent auction, speakers and a scholarship presented to a former foster youth to continue his/her education. On May 1st, Pinebrook will hold a fundraiser at the Lehigh Valley Grand Prix in Allentown. Connelly says, “Teams of racers will participate and for every lap completed, funds will go toward a specific service.” Information and registration are available online.

There are additional ways for the public to get involved. Monetary donations can be made through Pinebrook’s website via Paypal or sent by mail. Online sites like Amazon and GoodSearch will donate 5% of total orders to Pinebrook. In-kind donations are always welcome (just be sure to contact the main office for current wish list items). Finally, Pinebrook continues to seek families who are interested in becoming foster families. Through a strong family support system and network of services that Pinebrook offers, children can heal and hope for a better future can become a reality.

Pinebrook Family Services main office is located at 402 North Fulton St., Allentown. 610-432-3919/800-382-0404. Services are also provided out of two additional locations in Easton and Bangor.

*For privacy reasons, names in this story have been changed.

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