Family Connections awarded ARPA funds from Cuyahoga County

Cuyahoga County Council awarded $250,000 to Family Connections of Northeast Ohio from the Federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, to provide literacy programming to 150 kindergarten students and families in the Cleveland Heights-University Heights school district.

Our flagship program, Family School Connection, has been providing successful kindergarten literacy home visiting services to students and families for more than 12 years. Through this grant, we will also expand our footprint into the Collinwood community served by Councilwoman Stephens in Ward 10 who sponsored our proposal with the County Council.

Prior to the pandemic a significant number of kindergarten students began the school year unprepared. As the result of the pandemic, many more children are starting school lacking the basic academic and social emotional skills needed for school success.

Family School Connection targets children who lack the kindergarten readiness skills of alphabet knowledge, rhyming, blending, segmenting, and phonemic awareness all needed for reading success. This funding allows Family Connections to hire additional Family Coaches to partner with teachers in classrooms, conduct bi-monthly home visits with families to link home and school, provide families and students with reading toolkits, literacy activities and materials, and offer family group gatherings.

On behalf of the Family Connections Board, we are grateful to receive this funding to help reach families with young children. My two children were program participants in the past and I can attest to the positive impact services had on as they prepared to enter kindergarten. I received parenting strategies that have contributed to their continued positive educational journey, now in middle and high school.

The pandemic has put a spotlight on the importance of additional academic and family guidance needed as we look to post pandemic recovery approaches. In addition to services executed in my community of residence, CH-UH district, I look forward to seeing increased partnership and intentional collaboration to allow us the opportunity to offer services to families that need us the most.”  Tiffany Scruggs, Board President


Click here to donate to the tribute fund in honor of Joanne Federman

A letter from retiring Executive Director, Joanne Federman;

I wanted to write to you, as part of the Family Connections family, upon my retirement from this phenomenal organization.

There are several phrases for leaving a job or position to someone else – pass the torch comes to mind as one of them. Passing a torch sounds way too much like a marathon and sounds much too much like a solitary effort.  I prefer the notion of passing the baton as I retire as Executive

Director of Family Connections of Northeast Ohio. I’ve often felt that I am a conductor of an awesome and talented orchestra of staff, Board, and community leaders – all coming together to support and strengthen families with young children. For the last 29 plus years it’s been a privilege and honor to lead this wonderful organization of people.

So, as I pass the baton to Beth Darmstadter, you can indulge me in my reminiscing and acknowledging the tremendous growth of Family Connections. It’s best to start with the many leaders before me. While it is true I was the first director of Shaker Family Center, it was fashioned after Heights Parent Center, which was founded in 1982 by Barbara Soules and Carolyn Grossman. Marianne Joyce-Sollisch was the founding director, followed by MacGregor Peck, Deborah Osgood and Louisa Oliver.

From our early days of managing the Shaker Family Center building and facilitating an early childhood family center in the Heights to our current reach throughout Cuyahoga County, we have held steadfast to our mission to strengthen families with young children. Programs like our family literacy playrooms, SPARK, Family School Connection and Parent Cafés serve to build protective factors so needed in today’s world.

I am proud of the multitude of community partnerships we have forged over the many years. It is what makes us unique. We have built a reputation as a strong program partner throughout Cuyahoga County. Our staff and Board have worked hard to build recognition and understanding of family support and its value. We have positioned ourselves to further develop technical assistance and consulting capacity for content expertise.

We have accomplished something truly amazing together. As a result of our work, parents have become better equipped to cope with the stress of raising children. More parents are engaged in their child’s learning from birth through first grade and more children are entering school ready to learn. I am encouraged by the fact that more communities value strong families and provide resources to support them.  Even as I exit, I feel heartened by programs that are right around the corner – Family Space initiatives, Family Partners to name a couple.

It has been an absolute pleasure and honor to serve as Executive Director of this fine organization.  Thank you to the Family Connections’ Board of Directors and community stakeholders for unending encouragement and support and to all the talented Family Connections’ staff (all 25 of you) that I’ve had the privilege of working with. We made a lot happen and I’m very proud.

I know that Beth Darmstadter & the Family Connections’ team will continue to make a lot happen!!