Kansas Integration Institute

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Kansas Integration Institute - Father and Son

In August 2013, the Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (FBCI) office of the Department of Children and Families sent representatives to the Kansas Integration Institute: Connecting Healthy Relationship Education Skills and Safety-Net Services as an Integrated Approach to Strengthening Families one-day training hosted by the National Resource Center for Healthy Marriage and Families. At the Integration Institute, both Lucy (FBCI’s director) and George (Deputy Director at FBCI) developed an action plan with the following SMART goal: “By the end of the year initiate the Kansas Healthy Relationship Coalition.” Along with this SMART goal and action plan, the National Resource Center for Healthy Marriage and Families’ (Resource Center) set dates at 45 days and 90 days post-training to reach out to Lucy and George and provide additional technical assistance.
The FBCI office has historically partnered with direct service providers to improve the well-being of Topeka’s low-income families. Following the Kansas Integration Institute, Lucy reached out to NETReach, a neighborhood empowerment organization that helps vulnerable families develop healthy relationship skills necessary for personal and professional success. Lucy wanted NetReach to partner with her office to mentor families in poverty about relationships and economic stability within the home.

“We were able to assist [NETReach] as they developed a mentoring program…that focuses on life-skill needs of their members,” said Lucy, “and they very much focus on the parent-child relationships.” The program matched community mentors with single female heads of household (the majority of families served), as well as fathers. In addition, these two organizations partnered together on a work readiness program for unemployed and underemployed fathers that offers an intensive three week training course as well as a yearlong mentoring and case management training for dads.
The neighborhood in which these services were offered has the highest rate of out-of-home placements, addiction, homelessness, and crime in Topeka. With their efforts in that neighborhood, in addition to strengthening families, the mentorship program has contributed to a 25% drop in certain types of crime, such as burglaries. FBCI has supported NETReach’s progress and NETReach has done the on-the-ground work. Specifically, they have connected NETReach with existing resources, with people within Lucy’s agency, and sometimes even other agencies to help them seek solutions for challenges they may be facing with specific situations or families. Lucy has also been able to put different curriculums in their hands for ongoing use. 

By the end of the year, initiate the Kansas Healthy Relationship Coalition.

Lucy credits NETReach with doing “incredible stuff” in Topeka’s most challenged neighborhoods. She notes that FBCI’s partner role centers on connecting NETReach to resources within the Department of Children and Families and other government agencies. This has enabled NETReach to do what it does best – work directly with Topeka families effected by poverty, unemployment, and other challenges.

Lucy credits NETReach with doing “incredible stuff” in Topeka’s most challenged neighborhoods. She notes that FBCI’s partner role centers on connecting NETReach to resources within the Department of Children and Families and other government agencies. This has enabled NETReach to do what it does best – work directly with Topeka families effected by poverty, unemployment, and other challenges.

With the collaboration’s efforts, in addition to strengthening families, the mentorship program has contributed to a 25% drop in certain types of crime, such as burglaries, in the neighborhood served.

With the collaboration’s efforts, in addition to strengthening families, the mentorship program has contributed to a 25% drop in certain types of crime, such as burglaries, in the neighborhood served.

Lucy expressed that the Resource Center has supported her through providing materials that she and her colleagues picked up at the Institute and from the website. “Now something that has been helpful are the resources that we picked up at the Institute (I have given them all away)!” Lucy continued:

<blockquote>“They were SO appreciated because people (especially grassroots folks)…don’t have the resources to create material. It’s just so needed. And anytime I have printed materials I’m able to put them in the hands of folks and then I do let folks know about the website and they can go there and get resources. But that is not as utilized and I think mostly because of time…and another thing is accessibility. Because…we have many folks in Kansas that don’t feel competent clicking on links and digging for more information…and they wouldn’t necessarily know how to click on links to get [the] pdf and then save it to their computer so they could then have it and make copies…But the resources you guys have are amazing and really helpful.”</blockquote>

In fact, anytime Lucy has printed materials, she makes sure to put them in the hands of others and to let them know about the <a href="https://www.healthymarriageandfamilies.org/" target="_blank">Resource Center website</a> and the <a href="https://www.healthymarriageandfamilies.org/resources" target="_blank">resources stored there</a>.

Of the specific resources available, Lucy shared:

<blockquote>“I used the healthy families’ one and the domestic violence ones…I’ve given [these] out the most…They are very interested in having something right there at their desk, that’s ready and that they can utilize…With our immigrant population we have such a need to have materials in Burmese, and something I’m seeing is one of the reasons that our immigrants are so vulnerable to exploitation when they move here, they move into an area of town together. They end up being so isolated that they don’t integrate into the community immediately surrounding them. One of the things they don’t understand is that our families experience some of the same challenges that their’s do. So when they understand that they don’t feel like they are alone in trying to overcome those challenges. One of the big problems they have in accessing those services is having someone teach them about the laws in our country…so they can experience the full benefits of the freedoms we have…so one of the big barriers when they do try to access services is completely the language barrier. Being able to hand them something in their languages is huge. The Spanish [Resource Center resources] are always so gobbled up! People are so thankful that things are in Spanish!!”</blockquote>

Lucy also noted that “having [the Resource Center] call is really helpful because the whirlwind is going so fast, when am I going to stop and get resources? It’s not going to happen. So it’s good to have the checkpoint and to be able to catch up because we don’t have time to be creating the resources… to be able to access them and to give them to people and have other people access them is really key.”

In speaking about building partnerships, Lucy notes that “We have found a lot of support from libraries. There are typical places like courts [or] court services to put materials. But I think [the] library is one – we have so many libraries that see the fragile families that come in looking for work because they’re on the computers or trying to access and find out what different types of classes are available in the community. That’s another great place for us to put resources… We’re [also] hearing that churches have a higher rate of recruitment and retention because of the support system already in place.”

These partnerships allowed Lucy and her agency to collaborate with others doing similar work among the community and to leverage resources and support systems to have a widespread impact on those within the targeted neighborhoods. They were able to bring various resources to the table and really figure out how to make the most of them.