Family Connections

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2843 Washington Blvd., Cleveland Hts., OH 44118
216.321.0079 (Office) 216.321.7056 (Fax)  

19824 Sussex Rd. Shaker Hts., OH 44122
216.921.2023 (Office) 216.283.3580 (Fax)  

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THE HISTORY OF FAMILY CONNECTIONS


Family Connections represents a rich history of two organizations, Heights Parent Center and Family Connections.  As such, we have included the histories of both.

Heights Parent Center was founded to provide support for parents of young children and help them prepare their children to be successful in school. 

Two educators, Carolyn Grossman and Barbara Soules, conceived of the Center in 1978 after being inspired by Dr. Burton White's study of Head Start.  Dr. White concluded that a child's development from birth to three years is crucial.  Parents need coaching on how to promote learning by interacting with their children, and children need to be screened early for conditions that could be a barrier to learning, such as seeing or hearing problems.

Later that year, Your Schools, a parent-led educational organization, proposed creating Heights Parent Center.  Its goals were to provide parents with information on child development and child rearing techniques; to screen infants to detect potential barriers to learning; to provide a physical location where parents of young children could meet, share experiences and access resources; and to promote clear and comfortable communication between parents, children and teachers.  The Heights Parent Center opened in 1983 and began offering off-site programming in 2000. 

When the City of Shaker Heights and the Shaker Heights City School District explored the options of what to do with Sussex School after the School District closed the building in 1987, they began with several givens: 1) the Schools were not interested in selling the building but needed adequate revenues to maintain it; 2) the City wanted to ensure that adequate early childhood education programs, including the three then housed in the School, were available to residents but it did not want to supervise a preschool operation itself.

With these considerations in mind, a task force was created to explore the uses of Sussex and to analyze the supply and demand for early childhood programs and preschools in the Shaker Heights City School District.  In January 1991 the task force completed its year-long study.  Its recommendation, subsequently accepted by the City and School officials, was to form a separate, nonprofit, tax-exempt family resource center.  Original terms of the agreement called for the Board of Education to lease Sussex to the City, the City to sublease it to the newly-formed Shaker Family Center, and for the Center to lease space to its early childhood tenants.  The City and the Board of Education agreed to provide short-term financial help to the Shaker Family Center in the renovation, maintenance and operation of the building but not in its programming.

  • In 1995 the City of Shaker Heights acquired the building from the Board of Education, and in 1997 signed a fifteen-year sublease with the Shaker Family Center to develop an early childhood family center for families with children of all abilities.  The Center now houses multiple private and public, nonprofit early childhood organizations.

  • In 2003, Heights Parent Center joined Shaker Family Center & the City of Lakewood Family Room to form the Greater Cleveland Family Support Consortium. The purpose of the Consortium was to promote and coordinate family support initiatives that strengthen families and build communities.

  • In 2009, the Shaker Family Center rebranded their name to attract a broader customer base. Family Connections became our new name and brand designed to embody our philosophy of staff and family working together.

  • In 2010, Family Connections joined together with Heights Parent Center to deliver more innovative programming to more people across greater Cleveland.  This was accomplished by merging the two organizations.   The new organization adopted the Family Connections name as it best reflected our focus on programs that enhance relationships between parent and young child, parent and other parents, as well as families and other community organizations.  With the retirement of Louisa Oliver, Heights Parent Center Director for over eleven years, Joanne Federman, Family Connections Executive Director since 1993, became the Executive Director of the new organization. The programs of the Greater Cleveland Family Support Consortium, of which Heights Parent Center and Family Connections were founding members, were included in the new organization.

With the merger, Family Connections has multiple locations in which to provide programs and services. On-site programs and activities are located in both Shaker Family Center in Shaker Heights, and in The Coventry Building in Cleveland Heights. Off-site community partner programs include public schools and libraries. 

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