ADVANCING THE FAMILY SUPPORT & STRENGTHENING FIELD PROJECT
Through the support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Advancing the Family Support and Strengthening Field Project was conducted by the National Family Support Network in 2015-2016 to increase understanding and raise awareness of Family Support and Strengthening Programs and the Networks that support them, as well as to inform strategic directions for the Family Support and Strengthening field moving forward.
The Project included four components:
Working with a research institute to conduct a national scan of the current impactful work of Family Support and Strengthening networks with a particular focus on their workforce
Developing a series of strategic recommendations for how to scale this work and support the Family Support and Strengthening workforce to ensure that all of our nation's families are supported through coordinated quality Family Support and Strengthening services
Holding a national forum with a diverse group of stakeholders to review the data report, further develop the strategic recommendations, and engage in action planning
Publicizing the data report and finalized recommendations to focus attention on the need to support and strengthen families in every state through supporting, strengthening, and establishing Family Support and Strengthening Networks.
A 1-hour recorded webinar overview of the Project can be found here.
The Project produced the following resources that will continue to be utilized as the NFSN and other stakeholders work collaboratively to implement the Strategic Recommendations:
The Alabama Network of Family Resource Centers (ANFRC) contracted with Community Services Analysis LLC to determine the total Net Social Return on Investment (ROI) for the services of its members. For fiscal year 2014, it was determined that the ROI was in 493% – for every $1 invested in the ANFRC members, the State of Alabama received $4.93 in immediate and long-term consequential financial benefits. The total funding investment for services made by city, state, and federal government agencies, and from contributions from foundations, corporations, and individuals totaled $11,686,445. The net value resulting from activities of ANFRC members during the year totaled $54,956,000. ANFRC has used this data to call attention to the value of Family Support and Strengthening work, utilizing the same ROI language as other fields do to demonstrate efficacy. The full report can be found here.
In Arizona in 2010, the First Things First Central Phoenix Council administering the tobacco-tax funded First Things First Initiative decided to bring together organizations serving families in the area to begin a dialog about how to connect and maximize the Family Support service system. As a result, the Maricopa Family Support Alliance was founded. The Alliance secured its first funding from the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust, a local private foundation. That funding allowed the Alliance to hire contractual support to coordinate network activities and later in 2013 to develop capacity to provide certification trainings on the Standards of Quality for Family Strengthening & Support. The Standards provided a common language for diverse providers across the state and established a key role for the Alliance in promoting quality practice within the system of care. As a result, the Alliance has grown from 21 to 72 agencies over the past few years.
In Colorado, the Family Resource Center Association (FRCA) modified the Colorado Family Support Assessment to create version 2.0 that enables families and Family Support staff to determine where families are on a continuum from in crisis to thriving. It measures 14 areas of self-sufficiency, such as transportation, food security, and childcare, which are tracked using Efforts to Outcomes. This tool underwent rigorous testing by an external research institute to determine its objectivity and reliability. As such, the use of this tool by FRCA’s members ensures that the data gathered about families across the state is consistent. FRCA’s manuscript entitled Reliability of the Colorado Family Support Assessment: A Self-Sufficiency Matrix for Families was accepted and published in the journal Research on Social Work Practice.
Over the past 30 years, the Maryland Family Network (MFN) has been successful at leveraging funding from various initiatives and programs promoted by the federal and state government. MFN was one of 3 recipients of the original federal Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention (CBCAP) awards in 1993, and it continues to receive funding today. Fifteen of MFN’s centers are Early Head Start (EHS) models and MFN is Maryland’s largest EHS grantee. With the influx of federal funding for home visiting, MFN became the facilitator of the state’s Home Visiting Consortium and the Parents As Teachers state lead. MFN is also the lead agency for Strengthening Families in Maryland. The initial Family Support Center prevention/intervention program design has been so effective and responsive to the needs of parents of very young children over the years that MFN has been able to flex and embrace new logic models, new information, research, and reframes of basic principles and practices. As a result, it has garnered increased funding.
Working off of Wisconsin’s Core Competencies in the Field of Family Support developed by the Wisconsin’s Children’s Trust Fund, Massachusetts Family Center Network (MFCN) created a comprehensive series of trainings to ensure that all management and direct service staff at Family Centers/Family Resource Centers shared a baseline understanding of them. MFCN developed and provided a core 3-day training on these competencies and an additional 19 training topics: Child Abuse and Neglect, Motivational Interviewing, Strengthening Families 101, Parent Cafés, Abusive Head Trauma Prevention, Engaging Fathers, Co-Parenting, Facilitation Skills, Handling Difficult Moments in Groups and with Parents, Supervision, Mental Health, Substance Abuse, Child Development, Culture in Parenting, Domestic Violence, Vicarious Trauma and Self Care, Logic Models, Self Assessment, and Nurturing and Attachment. The trainings also provided opportunities for programs to connect with each other and network for ongoing peer support.
In Wisconsin in 2015, the Supporting Families Together Association (SFTA) secured over $400,000 through a Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge Grant administered by the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families to offer Parent Cafés for families throughout the state. Parent Cafés guide parents to explore the Strengthening Families Protective Factors in a small group setting through a peer-to-peer learning process and individual self-reflection. Parents build enhanced social and emotional skills and learn how to proactively respond to challenging situations. Throughout this process, parents acquire the leadership skills necessary to engage, train and lead Parent Cafés within their own communities.
SFTA invested in Family Resource Centers to partner on the project, the first time that the Association had provided funding for its FRC members. In the past year, SFTA has trained teams of staff to implement the project successfully and has developed a network of 100 parents across the state. In addition, the project has enhanced the credibility and visibility of SFTA. For more information about about Wisconsin-based Parent Cafes, please click here.