It’s Time to Open Your County’s 100% Family Services Center
Creating a one-stop hub to ensure all our parents can access ten vital services for surviving and thriving.
Imagine you are Marie, a mom with two preschoolers and a full time job at a hotel. You are exhausted most of the time. You focus all the attention you can on your children, while maintaining a 40 hour work schedule. You find yourself hoping that everyone around you, including a grandma who babysits, remains healthy. What you need is a place to visit that understands the stresses of a working parent living paycheck to paycheck. Now imagine Marie learns about the 100% Family Center, described by her church leader as a one-stop shop that can link parents to the vital services for surviving and thriving.
Entering the 100% Family Center on a Saturday morning, Marie and kids are welcomed by staff. While her kids enjoy a supervised play area, Marie enjoys a cup of coffee while meeting with a navigator who can make appointments for health care, food security and housing security programs, including transportation. For the first time in years, Marie feels supported, connected and empowered.
Creating a local hub that says “We care.”
The Center described above represents an idea whose time. In this era of mask-wearing and job insecurity, many of New Mexico’s families struggle to access vital services, including medical and mental health care, food security, housing security programs, and parent supports. We know from the 100% New Mexico survey of parents, that many family members struggle to access vital services. In some counties, 30% to 50% of parents report needing services, yet face challenges accessing services like behavioral health care for untreated mental health challenges and job training to secure a paycheck. We can no longer say, “We refer families to services” in all communities because they may not exist.
The 100% Family Center is one of the key strategies of the 100% New Mexico initiative and is now active in ten counties across New Mexico. The Center concept itself is still in the proposal stage, but, once fully funded, it will transform the lives of parents and their children. The Center will work in alignment with all county and city-based service providers to strengthen existing services that prevent adverse childhood experiences, family trauma, social adversity, substance use disorders, domestic violence and an assortment of historical challenges. The Center can also be a hub for pandemic-related public education, vaccine and general health clinics.
The goal of the 100% Family Center is a game changer and can link parents to the services shown to increase health and safety. Instead of traveling all over the county (or in some cases to different counties), a mom like Marie can access the one-stop service hub. It’s there that local center staff, who know which services exist and which are the most user-friendly, make sure connections to local service organizations are successful.
The four strategies of the 100% Family Center are:
- Strategy One: Serving as the one-stop 100% Family Center service hub in a county, linking all family members to vital services to increase health, safety, self-sufficiency and job readiness. The Center can also partner with food security programs to serve as a food pantry to meet immediate needs of family visitors.
- Strategy Two: Serving as the county hub for parent education and parent support services, creating a seamless system of learning opportunities focused on prenatal care, infant care, and early childhood development, to ensure children arrive at public school healthy, trauma-free and prepared for academic success. Parent education will also provide training and support to parents of elementary, middle and high school students. This comprehensive approach with parent education provides an opportunity to ensure school engagement, achievement, graduation and job readiness.
- Strategy Three: Serving as a capacity-building organization to assess barriers in 10 vital service areas and collaborate with local government and non-governmental organizations to remove barriers to ensure timely access. The Center’s project developers will not only initiate projects to increase access to services, they will also be seeking long-term funding to ensure project sustainability. The Center will also partner with the county’s community resource centers, health councils and existing community schools.
- Strategy Four: Serving as the county’s hub for public health awareness and preparedness, with the capacity to liaison with public health and public education leadership to provide school-based and community-based outreach to families.
Return on investment: Increasing the self-sufficiency of families
The 100% Family Center, with parent education, direct services, navigation to services and service development, can provide a return on investment in the form of resilient families, and a decrease in family trauma, substance use disorders, school drop out, and child welfare involvement. By working in alignment with state and local agencies, the county’s and city’s investment in the 100% Family Service Center can create a seamless system of support that can empower all families to succeed. For a mom like Marie and her kids, the 100% Family Center can remove service barriers and be a literal lifesaver. In these isolating, chaotic and challenging times, creating the one stop hub for parent supports in each county is an idea worth investing in.
For more information about the 100% Family Services Center please visit: https://annaageeight.nmsu.edu/programs/family-center-project.html
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The 100% New Mexico initiative is a program of the Anna, Age Eight Institute at New Mexico State University, College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, Cooperative Extension Service. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit annaageeight.nmsu.edu to learn more.