Nonprofit to Launch ‘Connecting Forward’ Pilot Initiative to Help Families in 41 Middle Tennessee Counties
Family & Children’s Service (F&CS) is proud to announce that it is one of seven public-private organizations in Tennessee selected to receive $25 million in federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds for a three-year pilot program. Each of the recipient groups was selected by the Families First Community Advisory Boardand will be part of the Tennessee Opportunity Pilot Initiative where they will implement innovative strategies for moving Tennessee families with economic, social, and developmental vulnerabilities beyond their current circumstances and on to self-sufficiency.
The project, called Connecting Forward, was developed by Family & Children’s Service and primary partner Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee along with a core network of 10 partner organizations, including A Step Ahead, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Clarksville, The Contributor, Nashville Rescue Mission, Safe Haven, the Salvation Army, Tennessee College of Applied Technology (Clarksville and Dickson), Thistle Farms, Tennessee Voices, and the YWCA. F&CS will be the lead agency for the project which will include these agencies plus a network of 140+ secondary partners, to serve low-income families in 41 counties in the Middle Tennessee region during this three-year pilot program.
F&CS will build upon and coordinate the work of existing social service organizations to reduce and mitigate systemic barriers for its clients. Using an evidence-based 2Gen, “no-wrong-door” approach, F&CS plans to swiftly assess and triage clients’ most pressing needs through a closed-loop referral process for wrap-around support. Additionally, F&CS will address long-term needs through a cohesive, sustainable system for case management, trauma-informed care, and innovative family-centered workforce development/employment best practices. Connecting Forward is designed with family voices at the center to address their stated needs.
In this collaborative program, F&CS will be managing the mental health and case management services – coordinating the services of 88 social service professionals – while Goodwill will manage the workforce training and development supports for clients. This way, the nonprofits will be able to provide true community-wide services and work together to fully provide much-needed wrap-around services for its clients in ways more efficient, comprehensive, and convenient for their clients than it has been in the past.
“This type of approach makes so much sense,” said Michael McSurdy, CEO of F&CS. “Nonprofits collaborating in this way, working with government, are often able to provide many of these types of community services more efficiently because we already have an existing infrastructure, trained subject matter experts, and local support resources in place. We are excited about the opportunities for real progress this new pilot program will offer Tennesseans.”
“Connecting Forward gave us the opportunity to dream bigger with other like-minded community service organizations about the most effective, strategic ways to improve our clients’ lives and eventually move them off financial assistance,” continued McSurdy. “The TANF grants are a great opportunity to help move Tennessee residents into economic and family stability, and with 88 percent of the funds going directly to services and program costs, we offer responsible stewardship of the budget.”
And the program is a good financial investment as well. The average annual family cost for TANF benefits is $4644. F&CS estimates the cost to serve families in this program will be a one-time cost of $4629 per family.
When dealing with crises, many families can’t remove themselves from temporary financial assistance without getting a job, but they aren’t able to get a job when they are managing a family in crisis, resulting in an extremely difficult “catch 22.” Therefore, Goodwill Industries’ workforce development is a critical part of the Connecting Forward pilot program.
“At Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee, our mission is to remove barriers and to change lives through education, training and employment. Getting the help you need to change your life should not itself be a barrier,” said Matthew Bourlakas, president and CEO for Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee. “Our no-wrong-door approach will replace an intimidating labyrinth of uncoordinated care with an efficient, connected and affirming network. Together we can break cycles of poverty and change the trajectory of generations. We are deeply honored to lead this effort with Family and Children’s Service and our other partner organizations.”
Another important aspect to Connecting Forward is that F&CS has a long history of working with multiple generations of families who are in crises. Connecting Forward will work to support all members of a family. “We have found that including grandparents, parents, and children is a critical part of our success,” said McSurdy.
F&CS and its partners want to help lead Tennessee families to success. When families are going through some of the most difficult challenges of their lives – crises caused by illness, trauma, weather disaster, job loss, etc. – the Connecting Forward goal is to guide them through these stressors with the supportive services they need. Then they want to provide their clients with the tools they need to be on their own and self-sufficient, without the state’s TANF funds.
As McSurdy summarizes, “There may be a community safety net out there for families in need, but we want to be sure the net is strong, tightknit, and available to all who need it. This new program will help make that dream a reality, and we are grateful for the opportunity.”
About the Tennessee Department of Human Services
The Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) views its programs and services as instruments for creating positive change in the lives of Tennesseans. Each of the Department’s customer-facing divisions administers supports that empower residents to reach their potential as self-sufficient contributors to Tennessee’s economy and communities. TDHS is committed to ensuring its investments in communities statewide are supported with the resources they need to successfully move families from crisis to and through career pathways. Through the Tennessee Opportunity Pilot Initiative, Tennessee will be able to demonstrate with measurable data those strategies that are most effective at reducing dependency and growing the capacity of our most vulnerable citizens.
About Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee, Inc.
For more than 60 years, Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee has provided job training and job placement free of charge to people with disabilities or other barriers to employment through the sale of donated items. Goodwill’s vision is that all people will have the opportunity to reach their fullest potential through the power of work. More information about Goodwill’s Career Solutions, retail stores and donation centers can be found online at www.giveit2goodwill.org or by calling 1-800-545-9231.
About Family & Children’s Service
Founded in 1943 by volunteers who helped find adoptive homes for children orphaned during WWII, Family & Children’s Service is one of Nashville’s oldest and most venerated nonprofits. Throughout its history, F&CS has focused on the most vulnerable children and families, adapting its services to meet the changing needs of our community.
Family & Children’s Service serves all people in crisis and transition by meeting them where they are, understanding their needs, and connecting them to the resources they need.
For more information about F&CS’ many programs and services, visit www.fcsnashville.org.