Family Connection began in 1989 to provide comprehensive supportive services for homeless children living in emergency, transitional or domestic violence shelters. A homeless child is certainly in a high-risk situation and needs these important life-skills. The “core” of the program is weekly Curriculum-Based Support Groups (CBSGs®) that provide much needed life skills for these children. The program also provides a menu of drug-free life enrichment services including art retreats, family outings and summer camps.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of American families become homeless. Homeless children are much more likely than children who live in homes to experience serious difficulties, including physical, cognitive, emotional, and mental problems. Further, childhood homelessness translates into a greater risk of homelessness in adulthood. Children who are experiencing homelessness are considered to be living in a high-risk situation which can “overwhelm children’s coping abilities” (the definition of “traumatic stress.”) High-risk situations do not provide the essential “protective factors” known to inoculate children against negative influences and psychosocial risks. Without intervention, traumatic stress can lead to diagnosable behavioral health disorders.
Most children living with homeless parents are very young (42% are under age 6) and are therefore physically and emotionally vulnerable in the event of household disruptions.
Families with children are among the fastest growing segment of the homeless population.
At least 1.35 million children are homeless during a year’s time, over 2,000 in Dallas alone.
I feel closer to my family. We talk now instead of always fighting. I’ve learned how to be a good friend to my brothers and sisters. I also know about good and bad choices. I didn’t used to know that.
– Dena, age 10, at a Support Group
I’ve learned that drugs and alcohol are bad for you and they can also hurt you or your family. I don’t have to do that stuff to be cool or to have fun.
– Sergio, age 11, at a Community group
You all encourage me to do good things with my life instead of bad things. I think I speak for all the kids when I say that you all have been a blessing in our lives. Thank you so much.
–Nina, 15-year old Kids’ University Participant
Family Connection fills a significant gap in the continuum of care for homeless children and their families by offering a program of supportive services in family and domestic violence shelters and transitional living centers.
Family Connection provides three types of core services:
- Curriculum-Based Support Groups (CBSGs®)
- Support Groups for Parents
- Drug-Free Life Enrichment Activities
Children’s Support Groups: Children meet in small groups once a week with Family Connection staff to participate in guided discussions and activities, which help them learn about themselves, their feelings, friends, how to make healthy choices and how to set goals for the future.
Parent Support Groups: Parents meet in small groups with Family Connection staff. This group provides a support system for the parents, focusing on their children.
Learning Tool Kits: Learning Tool Kits contain activities for children and parents to do together to reinforce lessons from the support groups. Learning Tool Kits contain all of the materials and instructions needed to complete these fun, interactive, and educational activities. Additionally they increase family bonding and communication.
Play Connection: Parents learn about play and the importance of engaging in healthy, interactive play experiences to build stronger, happier, healthier families. Play Connection provides a combination of knowledge acquisition and skills practice through ten sessions, five for parents alone, and five for families (parents working with their children), in a fun and relaxed atmosphere.
Family Play Time: Family Connection staff facilitates recreational activities with children and parents such as reading, board games and imaginative play to build stronger children and families through play. Games that require little or no materials are introduced to assist parents in understanding that play doesn’t have to be expensive and can be incorporated into their everyday routine.
Drug-Free Life Enrichment Activities (Off-Site)
In addition to the on-site services, Family Connection provides a wide range of activities to help children and families reintegrate into the community and enrich their lives. Life enrichment activities help children, and ultimately many times families, build educational goals, develop their personal attributes and assets, practice using their new life skills in natural settings, re-connect to the community, help others, and “recapture lost childhood and encourage age appropriate activities.”
Art With a Heart: A day retreat in which adult art mentors teach children about the arts and model appropriate life skills. Children are matched one-on-one with an adult mentor in a creative arts project. At Art With a Heart events, visual and performing arts activities are combined to give the children the opportunity to be “a star” and complete art projects that they can keep.
Family Outings: Social, cultural and recreational outings for the whole family are conducted at various locations throughout the city. These outings allow families to reconnect with each other and give parents quality time to spend with their children. The 3 biggest Family Outing offered are: Saturday with Santa, Easter EGGstravaganza and the annual Back-to-School Party.
Kids’ University: Conducted in partnership with a local university or college, this academic camp involves the children in a variety of interactive learning experiences. Kids’ University promotes the merits of higher education, develops social competency and builds self- esteem while reinforcing the importance of staying in school and continuing their education.
Camp Bravo: This is a unique performing arts camp during which homeless children learn songs, dances and speaking lines and create props, costumes and scenery for an original live production. The experience culminates in a musical production performed for an audience of family, friends and supporters.
Outdoor Adventure Camp: This traditional recreational day camp experience focuses on skills development and team building activities. Besides having fun swimming, riding horses, and making crafts, the children learn and practice skills, especially communication, cooperation, goalsetting, problem-solving, and teamwork under the guidance of skilled and caring adults.
Back-to-School Party: A variety of activities including games, arts, and crafts, prizes and snacks make this a special family event that celebrates the beginning of school. Children receive new school uniforms and backpacks filled with everything they need to start the school year on a positive note.
Community Service Projects: Children engage in projects and activities that teach the importance of helping other less fortunate then themselves. They also learn through these activities that they can help their community by contributing and making the world a better place.