When Norma Rosa first walked through the doors of the Parker Memorial Community Center, she was crying and looking for help after dealing with the latest act of domestic violence she and her children experienced from an abusive partner. Feeling like she had nowhere to turn, she was welcomed by the staff at Catholic Charities who run the Brighter Futures Family Center at Parker Memorial. The staff and families not only offered Norma comfort and support during this incredibly difficult time, they made her and her four children a part of their community. Norma’s son soon began participating in recreational programs at the Community Center while she enrolled in GED classes, “Cooking Matters” health and nutrition classes, and a variety of training programs including computer classes with certificates of completion.
Now several years removed from her past abusive relationship, Norma has become a parent ambassador for the Family Center. She reaches out to other families and individuals in the community and encourages them to take advantage of the many opportunities available at the center, including the opportunity to more deeply connect with other neighbors and learn how to become advocates for themselves and their children. As a parent ambassador, Norma works with other parents to help them build on their individual strengths to better support their children at home, in their schools, in their community and beyond.
The Hartford Foundation recognizes the value and importance of creating these connections and providing opportunities that helped Norma and her children to other families in Greater Hartford. In July, the Foundation’s board awarded Hartford’s six Brighter Futures Family Centers $833,000 to continue their work to support Hartford’s families and strengthen our communities.
The Hartford Foundation has supported Brighter Futures Family Centers since 1995. Family Centers are designed to meet neighborhood families’ specific needs and interests, and foster young children’s success in school and beyond in a nurturing and supportive environment. Centers are located in Asylum Hill, Behind the Rocks, Blue Hills, Frog Hollow, Clay Arsenal and Parkville neighborhoods. Numerous community, municipal and state organizations provide programs in partnership with the Family Centers, increasing the range and accessibility of services for Hartford families.
“The Catholic Charities staff and families at Parker Memorial gave me the strength and support I needed to show my children that I could do better for myself and my family,” Norma said. “Being a part of the Parker Family Center community has shown me how important it is to develop a strong and supportive relationship between parents and their children and now I feel empowered to share this message with other people in my community.”
Hartford’s neighborhood-based Brighter Future Family Centers are successful in large part due to the institutional support and engagement of three community agencies -- Catholic Charities, Family Life Education and the Village for Families and Children. These organizations provide programs, services and a caring community to support parents and families in these vital roles. Last year, family centers served nearly 4,500 children from over 3,000 families. Nearly 70 percent of participating families have children eight years of age or less. Families attending Family Centers this year participated more frequently and consistently than families in the past.
The $833,000 in grants from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving will help ensure that Brighter Futures Family Centers have the resources they need to enhance opportunities for all Hartford children to learn and thrive. With their focus on supporting families and creating a broader system of services for young children and families, Brighter Futures Family Centers are a key component to the Foundation’s efforts to ensure that all of our region’s children are ready to learn when they enter kindergarten and prepared to succeed when they graduate from high school.
“Hartford’s Family Centers serve as community hubs,” said Richard Sussman, the Hartford Foundation’s director of early childhood investments. “They are places where families can stay connected long after immediate crises or services have been delivered. The Centers emphasize family development and underscore the vital role families play as their children’s first teachers. Brighter Futures Family Centers not only empower and strengthen individuals and families but they create more cohesive and stronger communities by building a cadre of individuals who are fully engaged in the effort to improve their neighborhoods and communities.”
Family centers work closely with state, municipal and a variety of community organizations to connect families to a wide variety of services and supports including health care, resources for family daycare providers, and basic human needs such as access to nutrition programs. State services provided within the context of a Family Center have a greater impact than stand-alone programs. For example, recent state data suggests that the Connecticut’s Nurturing Families home visiting program at one Family Center is twice as successful as the statewide average in addressing complex family problems and that retention rates for the Family Center-based program are 12 percent higher than the statewide average.
“The City of Hartford is pleased to have a long-standing partnership with the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving to best serve our families and children,” said Kim Oliver, Director of Hartford’s Department of Families, Children, Youth, and Recreation. “We are proud of our work together at Parker Memorial Community Center to create a safe and supportive environment where families have access to the resources and services they need to learn, grow, and thrive.”
The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving is the community foundation for Hartford and 28 surrounding communities. In 2015, the Foundation celebrated ninety years of grantmaking in the Greater Hartford region, made possible by the gifts of generous individuals, families and organizations. It has awarded grants of more than $680 million since its founding in 1925. For more information about the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, visit www.hfpg.org or call 860-548-1888.