Data is Really About People

August 6, 2018–In 1993, a fledging network of family resource centers emerged out of sheer will and passion to serve our communities where needs persisted and services lagged. The formal association, Family Resource Center Association was established a few years later in 1998.  Since then, our network has increasingly used a “data-informed” approach to strengthen services through disciplined practice and decision making.

So here’s the thing.  Data in nonprofits is really about people; about our compulsive drive to reveal the truth about our impact; about how we work with people to implement change.

Data-informed practice is people-informed practice.

Several years ago, our network started asking: How do we define our impact? We employed simple data tools to hone in on how many people our network touched with services, directly or indirectly, and into which Colorado communities we reached. We asked questions such as: How do we expand into underserved areas of the state? How can we serve more people in a deeper way?  We increased our focus on offering a variety of evidenced-based services in more communities.

As we moved further into data-informed territory, the complexity of tools evolved. Since 2009 our network has used a relational database, Efforts to Outcomes (ETO), to collect participant-level data across the state. (Depending on who you ask, “ETO” might as well be a four-letter word. No one said data collection is easy!) Having a common database helps tell the story of communities across the state that need and value our services.

Every new revelation begs new questions, and we continued to implement more rigorous data practices. Now family development workers use a tool created by social science researchers called the Colorado Family Support Assessment 2.0. It takes into account 14 factors, including: employment and income, housing and food security, physical and mental health, and more. Is it perfect?  Of course not.  Will it look different five years from now? Maybe. (Gasp!) Does it encourage us to look at what we are doing well, and what we could do better?  Absolutely.

Once we had a tool to measure “self-reliance,” the conversation shifted. How would we ensure our work with families helps them achieve progress in areas that are important to them? Family development workers now earn a certification in a technique pioneered by counselors called “Motivational Interviewing.” It turns out that helping people make change in their life requires a similar approach whether it involves giving up smoking or deciding to develop and adhere to a personal budget.

We’ve been offering this approach long enough that we have data to demonstrate that our family development model works. We know that people across the state come to our centers with a vulnerability in one or more of the 14 areas we assess.  They also come with strengths and dreams.

Our data, as analyzed by social science researchers that we call “evaluators,” shows that people improve to a more stable place thanks to our strengths-based approach. Hence, here at Mountain Resource Center in Conifer, Colorado, which is also a Mile High United Way Center for Family Opportunity site, we can say that “an external evaluator found that family development participants experienced statistically significant growth in economic self-sufficiency domains.”

We owe it to ourselves, our families, and our supporters to understand the reach and depth of our services. For this, data-informed practice has been, and will continue to be, transformative.  At the same time, data-informed practice places additional requirements on our staff whose case loads are full. It challenges our leaders to develop methods for analyzing data even though agencies are stretched thin. We appreciate that our supporters understand the demands of this high-quality, intensive, people-focused approach.

And remember: data isn’t just about numbers. Anecdotes are another type of data we collect. As one of our families recently told us: For most of us, this is enough to keep us striving, out of sheer will and passion, to better understand and meet our community’s needs.

For more information about Mountain Resource Center or the Family Resource Center closest to you, visit our Centers Page.

By Tracy Atlas (Mountain Resource Center)

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It Takes a Village: Partnerships That Are Moving FRCA Forward

JULY 30, 2018–In a recent post, we told you about the collaborative efforts between FRCA and Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child Frontiers of Innovation initiative. In addition to this work with FOI, FRCA also partners with many great organizations and foundations across Colorado. As we continue to launch this blog, we’d like to introduce a few of the organizations and people that have been instrumental in the progress of family support and the Family Resource Center Association in the last 25 years. It’s because of their work and the amazing partnerships with our organization, that we can look ahead to future projects that will help families become self-reliant and thriving.

Colorado Department of Human Services, Office of Early Childhood  – The Colo. Dept. of Human Services Office of Early Childhood, has been instrumental in supporting the Family Resource Center (FRC) program since day one.  In addition to financial support of Family Support and Strengthening services, they continue to give statutory oversight for the FRC program in the state, and also direct certain family support programs like SafeCare, Community Response, and others, to our local community Family Resource Centers.

Parent Possible – Parent Possible has been a wonderful community partner and collaborator.  Parent Possible brings the Parents as Teachers home visiting program and the Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters home visiting program to our centers. These programs help young parents learn best practice parenting techniques.  Parent Possible also helps FRCA design other complimentary programs for young parents.

Rose Community Foundation – Rose Community Foundation has been a champion for the Family Resource Centers and family support in Colorado for over 20 years. Their leadership and collaboration have been invaluable over the decades. They continue to be a supporter, thought partner and champion for Family Resource Centers and the Family Resource Center Association. We value their partnership and want to honor their leadership and support over the last 2 decades.

Thanks to these organizations and their support, FRCA is able to continue important work for families in Colorado.

We would be honored to have you join these organizations in supporting Family Strengthening in Colorado through FRCA.  Learn how to donate here.

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Life takes unexpected turns, but Family Resource Centers provide help and support

JULY 16, 2018 – In my twenties, I was blessed to marry my high-school best friend and longtime sweetheart, Ryan. We were an average couple, like many of you, both working on careers while building our life together.  Life had its ups and downs, but it was good, we were a team. It was the little things in life that we both enjoyed, dinner with our families and attending church on Sundays.

But all of that changed in the summer of 2012 when unexpectedly, Ryan passed away in a motorcycle accident. My life changed instantly. Without him, I felt I had nothing. Within weeks with the loss of a second income, coupled with despair, I found myself homeless. Although loved ones tried to reach out to me, depression, addiction, grief and worst of all hopelessness had me in its grip. For three years I struggled. But then things got worse, I lost my only brother to suicide and then my grandad passed away shortly after.

It was around this time that I found out that I was 27 weeks pregnant. Which absolutely terrified me. There was no way I could bring a child into my mess.  I was terrified for the life of my unborn child as well as the uncertainty of how I would provide for this little baby.  But I made the decision that my child’s life would be a blessing and not a burden, regardless of what I needed to do to change.

I moved in with my mother until I got on my feet. I started eating well, stopped smoking, and maintained my sobriety. I also began going to the library and reading up on all things parenting.  With support and encouragement from family and friends around me, on August 25th 2015, Robert Aurik came into the world at 8 lb. 15 oz. He was a perfectly healthy and beautiful son named after my father in law.

I found out about WIC from a friend.  WIC was the first step in my transition to healthy parenting. I learned about breastfeeding and made a goal to nurse for the first year which helped me stay on track with my sobriety. I was also given the referral to Catholic Charities of Pueblo.

In the spring of 2016 I begin participating in their home visitation program, Parents As Teachers. I quickly found out there were many other programs that I could participate in.  I also started working with a Family Development Worker in the Family Resource Center Program. Alex was able to help me assess my family’s needs, make goals and start focusing on what I could do immediately to change the future of my family. He also informed me of a job opening within Catholic Charities with the HIPPY team. Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters otherwise known as HIPPY.  I applied and a few weeks later I got the exciting news that I was hired!  This meant I could start to provide for Aurik on my own and continue to work on my goals.

The work I do with HIPPY has helped me develop my professional skills as well as encourage me personally. With firsthand knowledge of many of the Catholic Charities programs, I am able to inform the families I see about the great programs we have to offer. I truly love the work I do: networking, assisting families and serving the community.

In the spring of 2018, I am completing my second year as a HIPPY home visitor.  I am now able to pay off the remaining balance of my student loans and I will have money to start my journey towards an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. I have also worked hard and will then be debt-free. This has allowed me to start saving for a down payment on a home!  I’m building a life again for myself and my son.

Most recently I enrolled in the Family Leadership Training Institute program. Each FLTI participant gets the opportunity to work on a community project of their choosing. My project is HOPE, Homeless Outreach Providing Encouragement. The project goal is to empower and employ homeless individuals, connect them with community resources and services that are already in place, and beautify our city in the process.

My life has been very different after participating in programs and goal setting at the Family Resource Center and the other programs of Catholic Charities.  Life is full of possibility once again. I have the skills necessary to take care of my son and myself. Additionally, I know where to turn if I need help. I am providing an environment that Aurik is thriving in. I have the respect of my family, coworkers, and people in my community and myself. My life now is filled with hope and happiness.  My experiences have shaped me, but do not define me.

The work at Family Resource Centers is important!  Connecting with families in their time of need is powerful and is life-changing.  It is the little acts of kindness, the encouraging words, the information and resources you share with families that add up and leave our world a little better at the end of each day.  Frederick Douglass said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken adults.”

– Tamra F.

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Donate your woolens this winter

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Collaboration – Doing Life Together

by Mark Kling, Executive Director, FRCA

JULY 3, 2018 – As we celebrate Independence Day, it reminds me that none of us do life alone. We live in communities and we work in community. Every day, each one of us collaborates with others in some way. The definition of Collaboration is the action of working with someone to produce or create something.

FRCA staff supporting Pinwheels for Prevention, a program from Illuminate Colorado

Collaboration is at the heart of everything FRCA does. From the work with families; as family development workers partner with individuals to set and meet goals; to technical assistance and training with our centers to raise the quality of work accomplished in communities; to helping to facilitate conversations with diverse stakeholders around the state in addressing solutions for our communities; we are constantly working on collaboration. We also work with policymakers to help inform policies and raise awareness for funding these important initiatives in our state. And we are continually working with our partners in the philanthropic community and donors to make sure this important work is sustainable. FRCA is focused on collaborating to make a difference in all that we do.   And collaboration over time leads to Collective Impact.

Collective Impact is another buzzword in our work that references a simple concept that is very difficult to execute. Collective Impact is a framework to tackle deeply entrenched and complex social problems. It is an innovative and structured approach to making collaboration work across government, business, philanthropy, non-profit organizations and citizens to achieve significant and lasting social change. (

Right now we have begun a partnership with Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child, Frontiers of Innovation (FOI) to test, refine and test again our tools, practices, and resources to improve family support. Currently, we are in the second phase of work. The aim of this second pilot is twofold: first, to learn more about the way in which families at three different family resource centers do or do not enter in the Family Development Pathway, and; secondly, to garner some evidence about the efficacy of Motivational Interviewing training for those staff engaging with families. Specifically, the FDP refers to a cluster of services including use of a common screening tool, motivational interviewing-based coordinated case management, and administration of the Colorado Family Support Assessment 2.0. FRCA believes that through use of these strategies, caregivers involved in the Family Development Pathway will experience increased readiness to change, and increased self-confidence, altogether leading to positive movement within goal setting domains and improved self-reliance.

At the end of the day, when families find their strength, confidence and work towards positive movement, lives are changed for generations to come.

And there you have it. Our vision, our ultimate goal, is to be a catalyst for lasting change in the lives of families. We believe that if we can create solutions that lay the foundation for healthy and self-reliant children and families, we can affect a long-term difference in our communities and our state. And as always, we will tackle each challenge that comes our way, collaborating with our members, stakeholders, funders, and communities.

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Why is Family Support Important?

by Virginia Howey

JUNE 26, 2018 – Parents and caregivers of families of all sizes, make-up, and cultures want what’s best for their children! I’ve been lucky to see this first-hand over the last several decades as I worked directly with families as a childcare provider, preschool teacher, Parents As Teachers Home Visitor and Supervisor, Executive Director of a local Family Resource Center and, the Family Resource Center Association’s Program and Member Services Director and now a contractor serving organizations all over our state. I’d like to share some of my personal observations and experiences of how family support has made a difference in a family’s ability to support their child’s early cognitive development and healthy social-emotional development. I will pose a question at the end of this blog. We want to hear from you. I hope you’ll join this important dialogue!

Family Support Twenty-Five Years Ago

I remember in 1990, a family with three young children that attended the preschool I ran. They had recently experienced an employment lay-off for the breadwinner in the family. Several months prior, the young family moved to our community when a large construction project began. They had been in town a short while and had not yet formed a strong local support system. They didn’t know what resources were available or whom to call first. When they did figure out whom to call, they were told to talk to someone else over and over again. Each resource (i.e., unemployment, Food Stamps, Child Health Plan, Head Start, WIC, housing assistance, utility assistance, etc.) had a different contact person, in a separate office, in a different location, and included different eligibility criteria. There was no one place to go for family-friendly comprehensive planning.

Several years after this occurred, I heard about a Family Resource Center (FRC) that had just opened in a neighboring town. As I learned about the mission of FRC’s, to provide family-friendly coordinated, case management services, I thought about all of the families I had worked with for nearly 20 years that could have benefitted greatly from such a resource. The concept behind the creation of FRCs in Colorado was to address the very issue experienced by the family described above.

Family Support Today

Family Support agencies and organizations have changed in the last 25 years, but families in crises can still find it very difficult to navigate the world of supports and services. The FRCs in Colorado continue to assist families in finding their way through services while setting goals to increase family and children’s well-being.

We have all seen a significant increase in research that supports the role of a nurturing, thriving family to support optimal early childhood outcomes. Just to quote one source:

We know that the way adult caregivers—parents in particular— interact with children during the early years can shape their brain architecture for life, for better and for worse. Children who have experienced nurturing and positive connections have more secure, healthy relationships and are more likely to do well academically and socially into adulthood than children who suffer insensitive or harsh caregiving.

  • What tools does a family need to provide a “nurturing and positive” environment?
  • How does a family experiencing unemployment, an eviction notice, a utility cut-off notice or any number of other challenges provide such as environment?

For those of us working in the Family Support field, we are regularly tasked with helping families find daily opportunities to do their best for their children, even when they are under stress. The diagram below gives us just a hint of all the different demands a parent/ caregiver must balance so that their family can thrive.

FRCA Member Family Resource Centers across Colorado. 29 organizations serve 46 counties and provide a family-friendly environment for families and access and referrals and direct services such as home visitation programs, parenting classes, early childhood programs, basic needs assistance, and more. An added service provided by these organizations is Family Development Services, which is a strength-based case management that helps families set and meet their own goals to increase their family and children’s well-being. FRC staff actively links families to other resources in the community and provides support during times of need to assure that families successfully access those resources. After short-term goals are met, families can set longer-term goals to achieve sustainable family stability and well-being.   Thriving families contribute to thriving communities!

Family Support in Action

I have seen so many great examples of family support, one family, in particular, comes to mind when I think about successfully integrating timely, comprehensive family support services: Marion*, was attending a parenting class at a local Family Resource Center. She shared during group networking time that she had just received a utility cut-off notice, did not have the money to pay her upcoming rent and had just been notified that her hours had been cut back at work so she didn’t know how she would afford groceries that week. Like most of us in a similar situation, she was panicking and didn’t know where to even begin addressing her multiple challenges. The instructor offered to meet with Marion and the Family Development Worker at this Center the next morning. Together, Marion and the Worker identified and prioritized her goals and the family’s most basic needs. Once the utility and rent bills were taken care of and she visited a food bank, Marion focused on longer-term goals such as gaining education and sustainable employment. She and her Worker developed a strong, trusted relationship and through committed and regular coordination of next steps over a two-year period, including coordination with several other support agencies, she achieved over twenty goals in different self-sufficiency domains (housing, education, childcare, transportation, parenting, and employment). Marion has since received her Certified Nurses Associate certification, which improved her income and, today her children are doing well in school. Marion is providing “nurturing and positive” environment for her children. The family even has a small, but growing, savings account so they are better prepared for unexpected situations.

  • How many similar families during those two years fell through the cracks?
  • Will those parents be able to provide a ‘nurturing and positive” environment for their children during a stressful period?

Local Family Support Efforts

Local communities across Colorado are working together more and more efficiently every year. Many communities are implementing an “any door is the right door” strategy for vulnerable families and children. For instance, in several communities across the state, service providers from multiple family support organizations come together regularly to coordinate their services and, in some cases, to pool their resources to meet emergency family needs such as food, utility or rental assistance, and share other long-term resources. These communities are not only maximizing their resources; they are assuring that fewer families are falling through the cracks by using easy, coordinated access to resources that match their needs without duplicating services.

What’s occurring in your community?

Question: What is your community doing to provide integrated Family Support Services so that fewer families fall through the cracks?  Please share your both your successes and challenges.

*Note:  All names, locations, and other identifying information has been changed/removed

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Welcome to FRCA’s Blog!

By Mark Kling, Executive Director, FRCA

JUNE 19, 2018 – Welcome to the new Family Resource Center Association (FRCA) Blog, a virtual connection to all things Family Support.

FRCA’s vision is a Colorado in which every family is thriving and self-reliant. We believe that Family Support can lead to true change for families and our communities. One lesson learned in over 25 years of Family Resource Center Program service in Colorado is that when you provide families with a primary point of entry for multiple resources, you significantly increase their chances for success in reaching their goals for economic, social, health and financial stability. This is accomplished by partnering with families in goal setting, skill building and providing the resources they need to achieve their goals.

FRCA endeavors to:

  • Ask the hard questions about what is working and what isn’t working in Family Support systems and practice.
  • Work on answers that lead to change in practice and systems.
  • Collect, analyze and report on data helping us to understand how and if families are increasing their self-reliance.
  • Equip our Members both programmatically and organizationally to serve Colorado families with excellence.

I believe that working on the big questions and challenges can bring innovation, collaboration and great opportunities. It is hard work, but the rewards are priceless.

However, we are still a long ways away from realizing our dream of every Colorado family being self-reliant. According to KIDS COUNT Data Report, Colorado’s child population grew faster than all but five other states between 1991 and 2016 and three times faster than the U.S. child population. Right now, children under 18 make up 22 percent of Colorado’s population, with approximately 168,000 of those children living in poverty across the state.

The influx of people moving to Colorado coupled with a rise in housing prices means many are just one emergency away from being able to afford the cost of necessary household expenses, including childcare, transportation, health care, and taxes, among others.

These statistics show how prevalent the need for family strengthening programs is across the state. We hope that this blog will help expand the conversation around family support and strengthening, challenging you and other leaders to propose out-of-the-box solutions to the problems facing the field.

This blog will feature a variety of voices; from asking leaders the big questions that will help move the field forward, to celebrating solutions & collaborations, and highlighting family stories of success; we look forward to showcasing the Family Support. Together we can make a difference!

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A single person can change million lives

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