TPC Grantee Families First provides parenting workshops, reaching their clients where they live – in neighborhoods, in public housing developments, in family shelters, and in transitional housing.

Many Families First clients are managing stressful situations such as trauma or substance abuse in addition to homelessness. Executive Director Sue Covitz explains more about the programs, and what TPC’s grant is funding.

Families First empowered Mona to build a stronger relationship with her daughter, helping them enjoy their time together despite challenging life circumstances.

Q: Explain what your organization does, the need it fills.

Our philosophy is very straightforward: Because children are our future, parenting is our focus.  Our workshops, like Parenting Essentials in a Challenging Environment (PEACE), help parents focus on three key elements to building better relationships with their children: communication, discipline, and self-esteem. They learn the essentials of child development and effective parenting, and they create a network of support.

Q: What is TPC’s grant funding? 

TPC’s grant is funding the expansion of our Parenting in Public Program, which provides a parenting education workshop series for homeless and housing-insecure families. These families are living in shelters or transitional housing. TPC’s grant has already helped to support programs at five existing partner sites and will enable groups of parents at eight more sites to participate in Families First programming in the coming months. The grant pays for Parenting Educators to facilitate the workshops, as well as their training.

TPC’s grant is also funding our ongoing evaluation of these programs, measuring the feedback from parents who have attended workshops.

 Q. How is the Families First approach unique?

Parenting Educator Milly Arbaje-Thomas engages a group of parents and caregivers in a lively discussion during a Families First workshop.

Families First is the only organization in the area providing specialized parenting education programming for families facing homelessness. In addition, we use a partnership-based model. We reach parents in a comfortable, convenient, and familiar environment by partnering with organizations that provide housing for families in need. By reaching families where they are, we remove some of the barriers to attendance.

Our Parenting Educators are experts in areas like social work, education, counseling, and family engagement. Their strong professional backgrounds, along with their deep knowledge of the challenges faced in the communities we serve and their understanding of cultural factors that affect parenting, make them uniquely able to impact the lives of parents that participate in our programs.

Q. Tell me about one of the people your organization has served – someone who stands out for you.

We recently held our annual Families First Breakfast, and this year it centered on several parents whose lives have been impacted by our programs. One of these parents was Celeste, who participated in the Parenting in Public Program when she was living in a family shelter with full responsibility for her two adolescent brothers and her infant son. She spoke about the parenting knowledge and skills she had gained, but also about taking care of herself and being confident as a parent. The workshops have really stayed with her over the years. She told us: “It’s very present in my everyday life. You know, it’s like brushing your teeth, taking a shower … every day I use something out of what Families First taught me.” Now she’s working to connect other parents in her community with the programs, and she’s enthusiastic about staying involved with Families First.

Aurora’s mother participated in a Families First program offered on-site at their affordable housing development in Roxbury. Now she is better equipped to help Aurora adapt to her unique challenges and prepare for a successful school year.

Q. What is most gratifying about your work? 

For me, the most gratifying part of this work is the impact our programs have on the whole parent. When I go to the graduation sessions and meet parents who have completed our programs, I often hear about how they want to stay involved and take on leadership roles – not just in their families but in their communities. Many parents begin to see their own potential, and they are more confident and motivated to make a difference. Our partners tell us that many of the parents who go through our programs become their most valuable leaders.

Q. What do you hope to get out of your relationship with TPC?

We truly value the informed and engaged approach to philanthropy that TPC brings. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to know several of the members and appreciate that Families First has become part of the TPC community. The relationship between TPC and its grantees is unique; it’s clear that you understand our challenges and our needs, while also celebrating our successes. Families First couldn’t do this work without partners like TPC, and we hope to provide members with hands-on opportunities to get more involved and volunteer with us.

Q. What’s at the top of your Wish List? If people want to get involved or help in some way, how can they?

Families First’s community of supporters is growing! There are many ways to get involved. We hold several events throughout the year including the Families First Breakfast and Gatherings Speaker Series. The Gatherings events are unique, as they provide participants with an opportunity to expand their parenting knowledge, meet others with similar interests, and learn more about Families First’s work in under-resourced communities. Both the Breakfast and the Gatherings have volunteer committees and we are always looking for new members to help with planning, outreach, and strategy.