The Power of Partnership: The Vital Role Family Resource Centers Can Play in Schools

5 Feb
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by Fiona Lavelle

Family Resource Centers, known as FRCs, are community-based organizations that provide comprehensive family support services to children and their families. Centers work in deep partnership with parents, teachers, school officials, and a vast network of service providers to facilitate lasting personal and academic growth for students.

A strong partnership between a school district and its local Family Resource Center can help with early intervention and lead to improved academic success and personal outlook for students. FRCs can open access to an array of supports for students and their families, and together, schools and FRCs can reach many more families. School boards too play an important role in making partnerships between schools and FRCs possible; providing support and committing facilities space and personnel.

The following success story contributed by an AmeriCorps member providing case management in a school-based Family Resource Center in northern California demonstrates the power of these partnerships.

From our first meeting, Angelica was a bubbly, energetic student, but she’d been struggling in school and needed some extra support due to challenges at home and at school.

Fortunately, her high school had a partnership with our Family Resource Center, and the school counselors were aware of our services.

Angelica’s school counselor referred her to our FRC because she was in danger of failing Algebra and losing her spot in a college preparatory program. Her counselor wanted to make sure that Angelica’s foster parents were supported too.

Angelica began participating in mentoring sessions and after-school tutoring at the FRC, in addition to the lunch groups I conducted on campus twice each week as part of the partnership between our center and the school district. In these group sessions, Angelica learned to express herself through art, poetry, and discussions.

Because of our center’s relationship with the school, I was able to stay in close communication with her teachers and counselors. Together we made sure that Angelica had the support she needed to be successful.

Relieved to finally talk about the difficult experiences she was facing at home, she told me about abuse she had experienced in her childhood, the separation from her sister, and the troubled relationship with her foster mother. She also opened up about her difficulties in math class. She struggled to understand key concepts and had been failing homework and quizzes. Because of our center’s relationship with the school, I was able to stay in close communication with her teachers and counselors. Together we made sure that Angelica had the support she needed to be successful.

The center provided her with school supplies and together we organized her math binder. She started to get higher marks in her binder checks and homework assignments and her teachers commented about the difference in Angelica’s attitude as her confidence grew.

As her academic performance improved, my colleagues and I wanted to be sure that her foster parents were also supported. Although her foster parents could provide for her basic needs, they often struggled financially. I referred them to a program that granted funding for school-related activities for foster youth, and they were grateful to finally have field trip money, which enabled Angelica to attend two field trips to Six Flags and UC Berkeley.

She shared her aspirations of attending college and becoming a famous writer one day. Together we discussed the steps she needed to take to get there and created a blog where she could upload her stories.

Angelica wrote me a letter at the end of the school year; she said that because of my help, she had passed her math class and was able to successfully finish the year.

For more information and best practices on partnering with Family Resource Centers to support Local Control Funding Formula priorities, visit the California Community Schools Network website and see CFRA’s chapter: Why Family Resource Centers Matter. Or visit CFRA online at CaliforniaFamilyResource.org.

fiona lavelle cfraFiona Lavelle is a program manager at California Family Resource Association. CFRA is a statewide membership association of over 300 organizations that serve children and families. CFRA supports capacity building of its members to impact policy change, partner with local government and community allies, and achieve sustainability.

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