Alliance Family Success Center: Keeping children safe by helping to build stronger families in the community.

What if there was a safe haven in the community that uplifts, educates and links families in crisis to resources?

Photo of Nastassia
5 3

Written by

Founding Story: Share a story about a key experience or spark that helps the network understand why this project got started or a story about how you became inspired about the potential for this project to succeed.

During one of our routine visits at a school we provide services to, we came across a parent who just lost his wife to an asthma attack in the home the night before. The dad came to the school to ask the guidance counselor to support him in telling his adolescent daughter that her mother had passed. Our center was asked to assist in the process. When the father arrived, he was emotionally unstable. Our staff member calmed the father down and provided him emotional support. The daughter was called out of class and with the support of the Alliance Family Success Center, he told his daughter of the mother's passing. After this incident, we created a Youth Chat group within the public school.
  The purpose of the group is to offer a safe space for self-expression and open conversation on topics like loss of a family member, bullying, self-esteem, being a leader, healthy living and family conflict resolution. “Mom to Mom” and the “Fatherhood Initiative” support groups were also created to provide mothers and fathers separately with the opportunity to obtain education on parenting, anger management and stress relief.
  The hope is to bridge the gap of communication in the home between parent and child and to allow children to have an active voice in their family. We know that raising children in Jersey City has its special challenges but there’s no need for parents or children to struggle alone.

Which categories describe you? (the answer will not be public)

  • Black or African American (for example: African American, Jamaican, Haitian, Nigerian, Ethiopian, Somalian)
  • Hispanic, Latinx, or Spanish origin (for example: Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuba, Salvadoran, Dominican, Colombian)
  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French, Caucasian)

Website

http://alliancecommunityhealth.org/resources/family-success/

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [State]

  • New Jersey

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [City]

Jersey City, New Jersey (Hudson County)

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [State]

  • New Jersey

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [City]

Jersey City, New Jersey

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Open to all in the community, we are a family-centered gathering place where any neighborhood resident can drop by for information, counseling, support services, or to just say hello. We are here to enrich the lives of children and adults, and supply them with the tools they need to succeed, before they land in crisis. When families are stronger, the whole community benefits.
  Through the expansion of our program, we discovered all families have the same desire to become better parents and to provide their children with a life better than they had. The Alliance Family Success Center seeks to strengthen the bond between parent and child by offering the entire family support through weekly support groups. We collaborate with other community based organizations to house our support groups in their locations so that families have easy access to support in their local community.

  Our hope is that by providing families in the community with ongoing support through group interaction, families will be inspired to raise their children in a healthier way. We find that families in our current "Youth Chat"  and "Mom to Mom" groups have been positively impacted by meeting weekly with our team and with their peers. Additionally, we find that ongoing support is essential in combating some of the initial reasons they come to the group. The Alliance Family Success Center run groups within some of the most disadvantaged neighborhoods in Jersey City. If we can uplift the youth and families of these neighborhood we can not only foster pride in the individual but give the individual a voice. To create a sense of belonging and pride in self, family and in the community is what we try to instill in all of our families.

  Though the  "Youth Chat" group was initially created to allow a child a forum to grieve the passing of her mother, topics have become much broader than we could of ever imagined. Youth in the groups talk about poor self esteem, issues over social media and conflicts in the home. We offer youth support and raise some of the same topics in our "Mom to Mom" and "Fatherhood Initiative"  groups. Such topics have included; Ways to cope with feeling of anger in a situation. We role play and talk about ways you could have made the situation better.

 These topics provide both child and parent an open forum by which they can receive feedback from others who might be dealing with the same issue.  Our model of educating the youth and educating their parents separately but discussing topics that are the same in the groups is what is changing the way children and their families interact.

  In the groups families are challenged to resist their desire to think or act negatively and replace it with a healthier, more constructive action. For instance, in our "Youth Chat" group, one 11 year old girl stated she had been in 2 fights at the school in just the first 4 months of the school year. We found others in the group to have similar issues in school and some were even nearing expulsion. We challenged all the youth in the group not to have anymore fights. Ever!

 We are teaching youth that they can have a voice in their school, in their home and that their thoughts, ideas and opinions matter. We work with their parents in their groups and stress the importance of listening to their children. We discuss the harm of aggressive and fowl language in the home and challenge families to rethink some of the ways that their household and family function. Parents have made "Feeling" Charts that serve as a way for families to track the emotions of each family member. The Feelings Charts are always well received as parents state they were able to gain insight on some emotions they didn't know their child and spouse were having. Feelings Charts and other exercises like these are done so families can begin to work on the roots of their household issues.  

  Our most well received groups are always when we partner with another community based organizations. This is another part of our model we find to be why our groups are successful and continue to grow. Partners like Rutgers University's SNAP Education Healthy Eating program hosted healthy eating seminars during some of the groups. They taught families how to make healthier decisions at the supermarket and better ways to prepare food.  We have offered all our families seminars on financial planning and provided them with Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University Curriculum. Guest speakers and specialists are invited on an ongoing basis to provide education on parenting, anger management and stress management.

  We are enriching the lives of children and their families by taking the time to listen to their wants and to their needs. We believe that any dream is achievable and instill this dream in all the families we service. We break barriers and link families to resources. By uplifting youth and their families through education and peer to peer support, we not only foster pride in self, but we equip families with the tools necessary to combat life's struggles.

Is your model focused on any of the following traditionally underserved communities?

  • Communities of color
  • Children who are differently abled
  • LGBTQ or non-binary individuals
  • Religious minorities (non-Christian)
  • Low-income communities

Does your model work within any of the following sectors?

  • Childcare
  • Child and Family Services
  • Community Development and Empowerment
  • Education

Year Founded

2008

Project Stage

  • Established (the solution has passed the previous stages, and has demonstrated success)

Example: Walk the network through a specific example of what happens when a person or group engages with your solution.

Youth can be referred to the Youth Chat group by either a school official or another student. The student is then invited to join the group which is hosted in the library on Tuesdays from 3pm-5pm. On the first visit the new member is introduced to the group and invited to share a little about herself. The rules, created by the group, are read aloud by the "Captain". The Captain and Co Captain are seen as leaders. Meetings begin the same and allow time for members to share a personal story and receive feedback from their peers. During every group there is an activity to foster communication and to challenge the thinking of youth. Coping skills are taught through role playing and youth are challenged to report their progress in using the skil

Impact: What was the impact of your work last year? Please also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Our most impactful group in this last year has been the "Mom to Mom" support group. This group has seen over 75 moms.
 The Fatherhood Initiative is our most recent group, introduced to our community just 2 months ago. We have 8 committed fathers who attend the group and we hope with support we can grow and sustain this group in the Jersey City Community. We see the need of positive male role models in our community and hope that by establishing this group in the community, we can discover male leaders. Finally, the Youth Chat group has grown to include 24 members. Since we began working with these youth in February, none have engaged in fighting behaviors and all report favorable attitudes towards making positive change.
In the last year the Alliance Family Success Center has served over 550 families through these groups and the other activities of our program.

Organization Type

  • nonprofit/NGO/citizen sector

Annual Budget

  • $100k - $250k

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is your solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

There is little cost in sustaining the groups. Funds received will be used to purchase model materials and Hazelden curriculums to be used in the groups with families. Other costs might include the purchase of snacks and some stationary materials for the lessons taught. We currently have partnerships within the community helping to supplement the cost of some of these items through ongoing donations.

Unique Value Proposition: How else is this problem being addressed? Are there other organizations working in the same field, and how does your project differ from these other approaches?

Our approach is innovative in that we are addressing the wellbeing of the entire family unit but breaking the family down into subgroups. Youth and their parents are invited to take part in weekly groups to help their family grow as a unit. We discuss the same topic in all youth, mother and father groups so that we get the family thinking about the same issues. Then we address each member of the families insight on the issue at hand. We hope by getting the family to think as a unit, we can help break some of the barriers around miscommunication in home.

Reflect on the Field and its Future: Stepping outside of your project, what do you see as the most important or promising shifts that can advance children’s wellbeing?

The most promising shift currently advancing children's wellbeing is the use of positive reinforcement in the home. Optimal mental and physical health can be achieved in any home with the reinforcement of good behavior and attitude through praise or verbal affirmations. When a child receives praise, he is likely to repeat that behavior and seek out more praise. I see again and again children who receive this type of reinforcement are the leaders in the group and are confident with positive self esteem. This is an essential skill to teach our families. Its builds character in the child.

Source: How did you hear about the Children’s Wellbeing Challenge? (the answer will not be public)

  • Changemakers.com
  • Word of mouth

5 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of Gina Wilkins
Team

Nastassia I love what you are doing here. Have you approached the Leadership Foundations for assistance and resources? Or CCDA (Christian Community Development Association). They both would be great networks for you. If you would like to review our project and think about starting a food pantry model, run by the children for the children, let us know. The kids feel so good about helping others in their community and being able to be a changemaker by sitting on their own kid-led Board of Directors or being creatively involved in fundraising ideas means the world to them. They are empowered by giving back and helping others. Great job!! Can't wait to see this type of support system in EVERY neighborhood. Good luck!

View all comments