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Family & Children’s Service to Receive $25 Million in TANF Funds

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.

Family & Children’s Service Awarded $8 million to Support ACA Outreach and Enrollment

NASHVILLE, TENN.— Sept. 1, 2021Family & Children’s Service (F&CS) was awarded the largest federal grant in its history this week. The Nashville-based nonprofit received nearly $8M in funding to use over the next three years to support its Affordable Care Act (ACA) outreach and enrollment work. The majority of this work is done through F&CS’ www.GetCoveredTenn.org initiative to connect Tennesseans to healthcare access.

This is a big expansion of funding for this program, and is especially notable in the wake of the current pandemic and increasing awareness around healthcare coverage needs.

The GetCoveredTenn Coalition, which is composed of more than 400 community-based partners statewide, will target all 621,500 uninsured consumers in all 95 Tennessee counties. The project will expand services and activities in the Middle and Southern regions of Tennessee and create new services and activities in Western and Eastern Tennessee.

“This kind of federal grant allows us to make a significant impact across the state,” said Michael McSurdy, CEO of F&CS. “We will be creating a statewide coalition, which means harnessing established and new relationships with local social service and healthcare providers and hospitals throughout Tennessee. We will bring our resources and experience to these cities, but the local experts will drive what works best for the specific communities in which they operate. This is what we have found works best. It isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ approach. But for sure spreading the resources, knowledge, and funding around will assure our success and the success of all our Tennessee communities.”

“We are ecstatic that such an excellent, well-regarded organization like Family & Children’s Service received this funding for such vital work in helping uninsured Tennesseans access health coverage,” said Brian Haile, CEO of Neighborhood Health Business Office.  “F&CS is uniquely positioned to make the largest possible impact, and we are celebrating the news they will receive this funding.”

As Lead Applicant, Family & Children’s Service, along with approximately 400 named partners, will perform the cooperative agreement activities in partnership with three 501(c)3, community and consumer-focused, non-profit organizations that will be paid subcontractors under this cooperative agreement. F&CS plans to spread funding resources throughout the state, as indicated by the map and chart below:

GetCoveredTenn Navigator Subrecipients (Primary Partners)

  1. Matthew Walker Comprehensive Health Center
  2. Cherokee Health System
  3. Appalachian Mountain Project Access



Region Name and Number


Eligible Uninsured Uninsured % # of Navigator FTE Proposed*
Greater Memphis Region 1 116,800 13% 3
Northwest Region 2 25,900 13% 1
Southwest Region 3 25,100 13% 1
Northern Middle Region 4 144,500 9% 8
Southern Middle Region 5 45,700 12% 1
Upper Cumberland Region 6 33,800 12% 1
Southeast Region 7 67,300 13% 2.5
East Region 8 108,900 11% 3.79
Northeast Region 9 53,500 13% 3
Totals 621,500 11% 24.29

Family & Children’s Service currently has contracts with HHS, SAMHSA, OCJP, TN Department of Health, TN Department of Children’s Services, TN Department of Human Services, and the United Way, among others. F&CS has been an HHS-CMS Navigator grantee since 2015. Prior to 2015, F&CS was a Navigator subrecipient, and we were a founding partner in launching ACA outreach and enrollment efforts in our state.

About Family & Children’s Service

Family & Children’s Service (F&CS) serves all people in crisis and transition by meeting them where they are, understanding their needs, and connecting them to the resources they need. F&CS often ‘fills in the gaps’ in social services, creating a safety net to ensure that all children and families can be safe and healthy. Each year, F&CS provide services to more than 50,000 Tennesseans. F&CS’ mission is to connect individuals and families to hope, to healing, and to one another. Founded in 1943 by volunteers who helped find adoptive homes for children orphaned during WWII, F&CS 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 the community. For more information go to www.fcsnashville.org and/or www.GetCoveredTenn.org.

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So Nice We Tried to Honor Them Twice!

About Hunter Atkins: Chairman of Synovus Bank and a busy entrepreneur for decades, Hunter Atkins has managed to also find time to become one of Nashville’s most prominent philanthropists and community leaders. Hunter has served as Board Chair for Family & Children’s Service, Alliance for Strong Families and Communities, Downtown Exchange Club, Exchange Club Charities, Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, Habitat for Humanity, MBA Alumni Association, Ways to Work, and Brentwood Academy; as a Trustee of Cumberland Science Center; and served on the Boards of the Nashville Charity Horse Show, American Lung Association, W.O. Smith School for Music, and the Downtown YMCA—and this is just a snapshot of his many, many accomplishments. Hunter co-chaired both F&CS’ endowment campaign and our capital campaign in the 1990s and has remained an active and very generous supporter of the agency for more than 30 years. Family & Children’s Service is privileged to honor Hunter Atkins for his extraordinary service to F&CS and the Nashville community.

About John Steele: Recently retired as the SVP for Human Resources for HCA, John has been one of Nashville’s most active and committed community leaders and philanthropists for decades. John has a deep and abiding passion for both healthcare and affordable education. While at HCA he chaired the HCA Hope Fund and the HCA Foundation, one of the largest charitable funders in the city. He has served as Board Chair for numerous nonprofits including Family & Children’s Service, Oasis Center, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Watkins College of Art, Design and Film, and has served on the Boards of Directors of Jobs for America’s Graduates, Make a Wish Foundation, and Western Governors University of Tennessee. He and his wife Jennifer have chaired and hosted more fundraising events than could possibly be listed here. This is but a brief summary of John’s charitable pursuits. John also co-chaired our most recent, and very successful, capital campaign. Family & Children’s Service is privileged to honor John Steele for his selfless commitment to Family & Children’s Service and our community as a whole.

Please click here if you would like to give a gift to F&CS

A Letter from Michael McSurdy

Thank you for “attending” our VIRTUAL Biscuit Breakfast! We have enjoyed celebrating out Luminary Award winners Charlane and Allison thus far, and now we want to take a moment to let you know a little more about Family & Children’s Service (FCS) and the crucial ways we support our community ongoing and specifically during these unprecedented times.

FCS is one of Middle Tennessee’s primary providers of counseling, case management and crisis intervention services for our community’s most vulnerable people, and the pandemic has not changed this. We remain committed to serving anyone who needs us. In the fiscal year ending June 30th, FCS served nearly 50,000 people. Our goal in all programs is to be as accessible as possible to all those in need or having experiencing trauma and loss. During these challenging times FCS staff have been reaching out to people in many ways, big and small. Here are some recent examples of our important work:

  • At public-school based Family Resource Centers, FCS staff distribute food boxes, diapers, toiletries — even pet supplies — to hundreds of families that desperately need them every week. We are also there to offer direct support and linkage to the full array of FCS programs to those most in need.
  • Our Crisis Contact Center has experienced a big increase in calls since the beginning of the pandemic. Calls focus on fears about COVID-19, anxiety about job loss, domestic violence, child abuse, substance abuse, and often suicide — all exacerbated by the isolation resulting from the pandemic. This Crisis Contact Center answered nearly 25,000 calls in the fiscal year ending June 30th and just had its busiest week ever in early August.
  • Our Relative Caregiver Program supports relatives (mostly grandparents) caring for children whose parents are unable to care for them due to incarceration, drug use, mental illness, and other concerns. Staff members have remained in touch with the caregivers and children via phone, text, and video conferencing and have been dropping of food boxes and household supplies on porches because many of our families have no transportation and or limited funds. The program serves more than 300 low-income clients.
  • Thanks to switching from in-person to phone screenings, Family Focused Solutions (FFS) staff have increased the percentage of referrals they assess from an average of 55% before the pandemic to as high as 95% after the beginning of the pandemic. This is due to the elimination of transportation and childcare barriers for clients. FFS helps families transition from public assistance to self-sufficiency.
  • The FCS counseling team now serves hundreds of people each month via tele-health and has created innovative support resources including short emotional support and self-care videos that have been popular with clients.
  • During the pandemic, our Health Access program is providing assistance to people who have lost insurance due to job loss or change. Our staff work to connect clients to affordable health insurance and low and no-cost community-based health care. More than 14,000 clients received assistance through Health Access at FCS during the fiscal year ending June 30th.

All these crucial services are free of charge to our clients thanks to the generosity of our community partners, sponsors, and individual donors. And these supports and Family & Children’s Service have never been in greater demand than they are right now. None of this is possible without your support. Please, support Family & Children’s Service as we support the Nashville community during the pandemic and beyond.

Thank you for your attention and support of FCS during our online Family Biscuit Breakfast campaign this week. Congratulations to our two Luminary Award Winners, Charlane Oliver and Allison Plattsmier. This year’s award ceremony was small, and we practiced social distancing and wore masks, but it is still as meaningful.

Every dollar is helpful and appreciated. Thank you!