For many years the school where I teach has housed a Family Connection Center (FCC). When a student doesn’t have a coat for the winter or supplies for school I contact the FCC and these items get distributed to students. The FCC also refers families to community resources provided by civic organizations, for-profit companies, non-profit groups, faith based groups, and organizations like the YMCA, United Way.
I’m grateful for the community resources provided by these non-profit and public agencies. But even with the help of the FCC many families don’t qualify for services. Some families can’t arrange reliable transportation outside the neighborhood. Other families are unavailable during service hours. Consequently, many of the community’s most valuable resources go underutilized.
Schools have long recognized the importance social and human services. In communities where these services are lacking the schools suffer. This was realized by Geoffery Canada. It led to his establishment of the Harlem Children’s Zone, a non-profit organization that provides family, social, and health service programs. The brilliance of Geoffery Canada’s Harlem Children’s Zone is it brought the services of a supporting community to a convenient but underused site: school.
A Federal grant from the Dept. of Health and Human Services has helped expand a similar program called “Wrap-Around Services” to the school where I teach. The program is a partnership between the city (which leverages resources), the school district (which provides the facilities), and the United Way (which provides support for early childhood learning programs). Using schools as the delivery site, this program coordinates resources and aligns the efforts of organizations providing health services, human services, and recreation activities.
Once, the Family Connection Center directed families to outside organizations. Now, the Wrap-Around Service brings outside organizations to school. A dental van provides teeth cleaning to students. Before school child care is offered. Families can receive food, clothing, furniture, emergency rent assistance or help to keep the lights on. There are partnerships with KidsQuest, Drama Kids, Mad Science, Boys and Girls Club, YMCA, and others to provide meaningful and engaging after school activities at the school site for students and families.
While I’m not an active participant in this program I can see more community engagement at my school. I’m seeing families a little more often. I’m excited about the possibilities. It benefits children, families, and communities. If it takes a village to raise a child then it’s wise to bring the village’s resources closer to school. This is one of the best ideas I’ve seen.