Family Bridges: Building Strong Families with Purpose-Driven Children

What if every child had parents in a healthy relationship teaching them the skills to become a leader of their generation?

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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.

As a doctoral student doing her dissertation in psychology, Dr. Alicia La Hoz noted that programs and research geared towards Latino families and healthy relationships were virtually non-existent, despite Latinos being the nation’s largest minority group. During her internship counseling Latino couples, she found marriage counseling was the last stop before the divorce lawyer for many. Conflict between the parents had already done irreparable damage to their children’s psychological well-being. One boy sticks in the mind of Dr. La Hoz:
A 7-year old boy cried in my office as he wondered out loud why his father had walked out on him, his mother and newborn brother. He figured he had done something wrong and, if he could just figure out how to make things right, his dad would come home. His tears and those of many others is why I feel a sense of obligation to work diligently to strengthen families. The deluge of economic, social and emotional problems faced by children due to separated parents clearly point towards the need to embrace healthy relationship programs, along with education and work. Instead of tears of despair, the tears of healing as a pair of sisters share in the video show the power of reconciliation and forgiveness between parents.
Dr. La Hoz decided a culturally appropriate prevention program for Latino families was needed and in 2004 formed a large regional coalition which became Family Bridges. In 2010 Family Bridges was incorporated as a nonprofit.

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

  • Hispanic, Latinx, or Spanish origin (for example: Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuba, Salvadoran, Dominican, Colombian)

If you chose to self-identify your race, ethnicity, or origin, please share here: (the answer will not be public)

white

Website

http://www.familybridgesusa.org

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [State]

  • Illinois

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [City]

Oakbrook Terrace

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

  • Illinois

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

Chicago metro area, Illinois
Phoenix, Arizona

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Four children out of every ten are born into fragile families where the parents are not in a committed relationship. The rate is even higher among Latino families in the U.S.: six out of ten. Recent estimates show that family fragmentation costs U.S. taxpayers at least $112 billion every year due to the high rate of poverty found among fragile families, the increased costs of anti-poverty, health, criminal justice and education programs, and lower taxes paid by adults who earn less as a result of growing up in poverty. A stable, healthy relationship between the parents makes it less likely their children will suffer child abuse and neglect which cause neurological changes, impaired cognitive and social-emotional development, and lifelong health issues, e.g. substance abuse, heart disease, and depression (see Adverse Childhood Experiences Study).

The saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child.” At Family Bridges, we believe it takes a community to help parents raise children who have a clear purpose in life. More than ever, we need to come together as a village to inspire, educate and empower parents. When parents work together as leaders of their family and teach their children the skills necessary to become the leaders of the next generation, everyone wins. The volunteer-led Avance model provides the structure and content to unite businesses, nonprofits, congregations, and schools behind the common cause of strengthening family relationships for the benefit of their children. Volunteers start Avance chapters anchored by a local institution. Family Bridges trains the volunteers to facilitate research-based, culturally sensitive  workshops in their own neighborhood and teach other parents communication, conflict resolution and problem-solving skills. Impact dramatically increases when participants have time to develop a relationship with the facilitator and to gain more skills through a series of workshops, e.g. leadership development, parenting, financial management and small business development. Many participants eventually go on to become Avance volunteers.

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

  • Communities of color
  • Low-income communities

Does your model work within any of the following sectors?

  • Child and Family Services
  • Community Development and Empowerment
  • Education
  • Mental Health
  • Other

If you chose "other," please share the sector you work within here:

Family Bridges is a coalition with 11 affiliates and 500 host organizations e.g. schools, libraries

Year Founded

2004

Project Stage

  • Scaling (the solution has passed the previous stages, and the next step will be growing its impact on a regional or global scale)

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

Two years ago I was going through a divorce. With that, I faced chaos in my life, which impacted my kids. And I needed a job after years home raising my three children. Suddenly I realized I had nothing to put on my resume. “Nobody is going to give a job,” I thought. Thankfully I heard about Family Bridges. I entered their job training to build my resume, and began taking relationship workshops, such as Growth, where I learned to manage stress, and How to Avoid Falling for a Jerk, which helped me understand my failed marriage. Family Bridges helped me find myself and become a better mother. At the end of my training, Family Bridges asked me to stay. It’s amazing I started as a subsidized worker and now I’m the Subsidized Job Coordinator.

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

31% of parents in Family Bridges programs in 2014-15 reported a significant increase in confidence in their ability to parent (although most FB curricula aim to improve couples' relationships, parenting skill gains are often a peripheral benefit). 96% reported some improvement in their relationship with their children, with 57% reporting major improvement. 96% reported some increase in confidence in their ability to parent children, with 60% percent reporting major improvement.
A rigorous two-year follow-up study of one FB program demonstrated that 7.6% (26/342) of couples who completed a relationship workshop divorced compared to 11.9% (38/318) who did not attend a workshop. This study found distressed and minority couples benefited most.
Comments include: “I can focus more on my wife and family.” “The activity brought to mind lots of things we have enjoyed during our marriage."

Organization Type

  • nonprofit/NGO/citizen sector

Annual Budget

  • $1mil - $5mil

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

The Avance model is a radically different approach from traditional grants. It equips a group of volunteers to lead change in their own communities by developing an Avance chapter anchored by a local institution. Family Bridges supplies matching funds for donations received from local businesses and families and provides volunteers training and coaching on proven, culturally appropriate programs that are in high demand.

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?

Family Bridges creates value because it has a scalable Avance model, helping people who want to help by providing them the structure and content they need to connect and empower their underserved community. The healthy relationship content is delivered through educational workshops taught by volunteers and entertainment, a radio soap opera broadcast daily, using the cultural script of the Latino community to increase impact.
It is unique because it takes a collaborative approach to go where people are at and serves a broad audience—no exclusion based on income, age, gender, or legal status.

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?

What if the hours and hours families spent in front of screens were a positive force for social change? We all know that the media we consume influences our thoughts and habits. What if we used the enormous power of the media to teach the skills needed to strengthen family relationships? Edutainment is “weaving social issues into entertainment genres”.
Family Bridges is the producer of the popular radio soap opera, ¡Qué Gente, Mi Gente! airing daily on 600+ stations in 25 countries. The entertaining series helps Latino listeners reflect on the difficult realities they face every day.

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

  • Email

Referral: If you discovered the Challenge thanks to an organization or person other than Ashoka, who was it? (the answer will not be public)

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Program Design Clarity

Family Bridges serves primarily young (<age 40) low-income Latino families, mostly immigrants, providing them with educational workshops to strengthen their relationship skills: communication, conflict resolution, problem-solving. For teens and single adults we add partner selection and how to slow down a relationship. FB partners with trusted neighborhood organizations, eg schools, churches, libraries, to offer workshops in English and Spanish on a weekly basis for a total of 6-18 hours. Facilitators are community members well-trained to engage the participants in dynamic activities.

Community Leadership

The Avance model developed by Family Bridges empowers a team of volunteers to determine the needs of their own community and be trained to facilitate whichever family strengthening programs they need. They are supported by a local anchor organization, e.g. a community center, and local donors, including families and businesses.

Age of Children Impacted

  • Pregnancy - 0
  • 0-1.5
  • 1.5 -3
  • 3 - 5
  • 6 - 12
  • 12+

Spread Strategies

Family Bridges is expanding rapidly with its Avance model. In the past year we have trained facilitators to start programs in Arizona and Puerto Rico, with Wisconsin and Costa Rica ready to start shortly.
The federal Adminstration for Children and Families has invited FB leaders to speak about our model at six regional roundtables they are holding across the US where they are inviting others doing family strengthening work to learn and share.

Reflect on how your work helps children to thrive. How are you cultivating children’s sense of self, belonging, and purpose through your model?

The foundation of a child's wellbeing is their relationship with their parents. If that improves, the child is happier and healthier, sleeping and eating better. That's why we target services to parents of preschool and elementary children. At the end of FB programs, 96% parents reported some improvement in their relationship with their children, with 57% reporting major improvement

Leadership Story

Growing up, my parents provided an excellent example of how to live a marriage successfully. They seemed to have this grasp of it, intuitively, but they never really talked about it - just the day-to-day relationship. We saw it - they just lived it - but we didn't necessarily understand. How did they manage with such different personalities? I was struck by the need for that kind of example in the Hispanic community. Family is so key, but when people struggle with the "how," everything else suffers. Learning, and then teaching, the skills I saw lived as a child makes all the difference.

What awards or honors has the project received? (Optional)

2 Telly Awards, Emmy Nomination (Que Gente, Mi Gente)

Organization's Twitter Handle

@familybridges

Organization’s Facebook Page (URL)

http://www.facebook.com/familybridges

Leader's LinkedIn Profile (URL)

https://www.linkedin.com/in/alicia-la-hoz-1a69b7b

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Preventing Adverse Childhood Experiences by strengthening family relationships improves lifelong health and reduces the cost to society. "Child abuse and neglect are serious problems that can have lasting harmful effects on its victims. The goal in preventing child abuse and neglect is clear—to stop this violence from happening in the first place. Safe, stable, nurturing relationships...for all children and families can prevent abuse and help all children reach their full potential." CDC

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This program it's life changing in people's lives with a long term impact, not only at individual level, but also in a family and the society at large. If this happens will have also healthier children today with will become mature and healthy adults tomorrow. It's also a sustainable approach because it finds people where they are, they have the opportunity to get trained and the opportunity to become trainers and become committed to their social group as volunteers. The impact of strengthening healthy relationships also makes us healthier  in the way we approach everyday challenges that we commonly call conflicts. I have seen people making changes by taking ownership of one aspect of their lives and improving the quality in their relationships and experiencing growth in their personal lives.

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