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LiveWell partners with DSNWK to keep Kansas families together

Updated: Feb 11, 2021

Colby, Kan. – (Wednesday, June 10, 2020)

A nationally recognized home-visiting program, known as the Attachment and Biobehavioral Catch-Up (ABC) approach, is being expanded across northwest Kansas as two local organizations come together to support families experiencing trauma and toxic stress. Ultimately, the goal of the ABC program is to benefit children at risk of placement in foster care.

“The ABC program offers a unique opportunity to position Kansas as a leader in child welfare, and LiveWell Northwest Kansas (LiveWell) is honored to be called upon to support vulnerable families of northwest Kansas,” said LiveWell Director Travis Rickford. “We’ve partnered with Developmental Services of Northwest Kansas (DSNWK) in Hays to ensure the program’s success throughout the entire region.”

The ABC approach is a home visiting, coach-led treatment which has been successful in its ability to hold families together and prevent children from entering the foster care system, explained Rickford. The evidence-based program benefits families who have experienced neglect, abuse, and domestic violence by providing parents and caregivers with skills to offer nurturing care and create bonds with children.

“LiveWell works to implement evidence-based interventions that improve overall health and well-being for northwest Kansas counties,” added Rickford. “As we explore opportunities to address toxic stress and trauma within families, we’ve discovered that ABC is a proved method to make families happier and healthier, which in turn improves our ability to thrive as a community.”

With support from the United Methodist Health Ministry Fund (UMHMF), LiveWell began offering the ABC program in 2017. Initially, the program was offered to 12 northwest Kansas counties from Cheyenne to Trego.

Then, in Oct. 2019, additional funding support was received from the Department of Health and Family Services (DCF) through the Family First Prevention Services Act (Family First). The grant was awarded to the University of Kansas Medical Center’s Project Eagle (Project Eagle) who, in turn, named LiveWell the local organization responsible for meeting goals across rural and frontier parts of Kansas.

As a result of additional funding from DCF by way of Project Eagle, and a new partnership with DSNWK, LiveWell is now able to grow the program and include families in six more counties.

Today, six certified home visitors from LiveWell and DSNWK are working to reduce trauma and toxic stress while preventing the need for foster care throughout the Kansas counties of Cheyenne, Rawlins, Decatur, Norton, Phillips, Smith, Sherman, Thomas, Sheridan, Graham, Rooks, Osborne, Wallace, Logan, Gove, Trego, Ellis and Russell.

Additionally, LiveWell continues to receive support from UMHMF to implement the ABC program.

“Partnering with DNSWK to expand ABC offerings is a natural solution to this collective effort being realized throughout the state,” said Rickford. “DSNWK has an incredible track record for their ability to support children and families and we are proud to join them in this effort.”

At DSNWK, the ABC program will be offered as a new service called Fam-Link, explained Steve Keil, Director of Development at DSNWK in Hays.

“The Fam-Link program focuses on nurturing and supporting families to improve outcomes for children in northwest Kansas using the ABC approach,” he said. “The intervention is designed to help families develop critical skills leading to better outcomes for children and thus family preservation.”

Fam-Link service at DSNWK is offered to parents and caregivers of babies who are between 6 and 24 months old. Fam-Link strengthens the relationship with the child, while helping the child to learn to regulate behaviors and emotions. DSNWK’s Fam-Link program helps to identify and respond to a baby’s signals.

LiveWell Bilingual Home Visitors Liz Merchan, left, and Sandra Estrada are based in Colby but travel throughout northwest Kansas to support families in need.

“Together with leadership from Project Eagle and our partnership with DSNWK, we have an incredibly well-built team of ABC Home Visitors who are qualified to offer parent coaching throughout the region,” continued Rickford. “From LiveWell, we have Emily Palmer, Robert Opat and two bilingual home visitors, Sandra Estrada and Liz Merchan, who join two other DSNWK home visitors, Kathleen Plummer and Franses Schmidt.

“We couldn’t do this work without support from DCF, Project Eagle and the United Methodist Health Ministry Fund.”

For more information, contact Rickford at (785) 460-8177 or Learn more about the ABC program by visiting

Information about DSNWK’s Fam-Link program can be found by contacting Sara Biggs at (785) 621-5329 or

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