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Partnering for Family Success

Family Resources Centers and Family Support and Strengthening Networks

By Andrew Russo

Family Resource Centers (FRCs) have grown organically to become the most typical kind of Family Support and Strengthening program in the country. There are now more than 3,000 FRCs in 30 states and the District of Columbia working with more than 2 million people annually. Yet because their efforts are largely under the radar, they are often described as “America’s best kept secret.”

With no dedicated federal funding— unlike Head Start, Home Visiting, or Afterschool programs—how could there be so many of them? Why are so many public and private funders at the state, city, county, and community levels choosing to invest in FRCs without a directive to do so?

Understanding the current lay of the land of FRCs nationally necessitates exploring how they work in partnership with families, with other kinds of social services providers, with state and county health and human services agencies, and with other FRCs.

The roots of FRCs can be traced back more than 100 years to the establishment of settlement houses in the late 1800s in major metropolitan areas. These settlement houses provided the large number of immigrants entering the country at that time with support, job training, English classes, and social advocacy as a means to assist them in understanding, adapting to, and succeeding in American society.

The term “Family Resource Center” first emerged in the late 1970s to describe welcoming local programs designed to support parents with young children through a variety of resources and services. As the modern version of settlement houses, an FRC is a community- or school-based welcoming hub of support, services, and opportunities for families that reflects and is responsive to community needs, culture, and interests. These programs are designed for all families, not only low-income or highly challenged families, so the support they provide is not stigmatized, which make them more readily accessible.

The centers work with families in a multigenerational, strengths-based, and family-centered approach to enhance parenting skills; foster the healthy development and well-being of children, youth, and families; prevent child abuse and neglect; increase school readiness; connect families to resources; develop parent and community leadership; engage males and fathers; support healthy marital and couples relationships; and promote family economic success.

Typical programs and activities, provided at no or low cost for participants, may include parenting classes utilizing evidence-based curricula; support groups; home visiting; life skills training; family activities; leadership development; links to community resources; family counseling; crisis intervention; and concrete supports such as food banks, clothing exchanges, and rental assistance. FRCs not only provide programs but build communities of peer support for families where caregivers develop social connections that reduce isolation and stress, which are highly correlated with child abuse.

FRC budgets vary across the country in relation to local costs of living, specific programming, and physical space. A typical community-based New Jersey Success Center has an annual budget of $240,000 to $300,000 with three to four full-time staff. A school-based FRC in Kentucky has an annual budget of $33,000 to $82,000 with one to two full-time staff with space and other resources provided in-kind.

FRCs are funded in a variety of ways, such as blending and braiding federal Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention, Promoting Safe and Stable Families, Early Head Start, or Home Visiting dollars with state or local general funds, education funds, and revenues from taxes specifically earmarked for children’s services. In addition to government funding, FRCs typically seek support from foundations, corporations, and in-kind donations.



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