It is with great sadness that we announce that we are phasing out our Family School Connection program at the end of this summer. This decision comes after a very heartfelt and intensive planning process here at Hands On Hartford.
Family School Connection activities are currently carried out by Patricia Porteus (Clinical Supervisor) and Milagros Reyes and Olga Ruiz (both Home Visitors), three tremendously committed and compassionate women. Originally a part of Hands On Hartford’s Center for Youth, Family School Connection was formed in 2000 as a collaboration among Hands On Hartford, the Children’s Trust Fund (now a division of the Connecticut Department of Social Services), and the Junior League of Hartford. We are proud to say that after we created and piloted this program, it was adopted by the Connecticut legislature and repeated at four additional sites around Connecticut.
Over the years, we have worked with hundreds of children and families from Betances School in Hartford. Through weekly home visits, referrals to services and resources, parent and family education and group activities and field trips we have established strong and healthy relationships with families of at-risk children. We have successfully addressed problems with truancy, behavioral and developmental difficulties, and other unmet needs so that children can enjoy academic success.
“This has been such a wonderful program,” says Patricia Porteous. “Being supported by Hands On Hartford to reach out to so many families in need has been a meaningful and joyful experience for me. Our families are loving parents who welcome us into their homes. They do their best to take advantage of the services we provide, whether they are parenting skills, ideas for organizing their schedules, creative family activities, referrals to specific community services or the food in the backpacks we deliver. Our goal has been to plant seeds of hope and confidence in parents and children with the surety that these will grow with our families in the future. It is with gratitude that I thank Hands On Hartford, the educational community and each of our families for this opportunity to be of service.”
We have had many partners in our Family School Connection work. In the early years, the Junior League provided inspiration, funding and manpower (womanpower!). Financial support has been provided by The Children’s Trust Fund, the City of Hartford, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, the Fund for Greater Hartford, Lincoln Financial Group Foundation, the Trustees of the Warburton Chapel, Acadia Insurance and WR Berkley Corporation Charitable Foundation, and a number of individual donors. Avon Old Farms School provided uniforms to the children of Family School Connection, and Center Church has reserved summer camp spots free of charge at Camp Asto Wamah for many years.
In the next few months, the Family School Connection team will be working with families to connect with each other and find other community supports so that their children can continue to thrive.
“Family School Connection has had a huge impact on my students’ education and their lives and their family’s lives. Many of my students’ families rely on this program to help them. The students and families fall in love with their [home visitors] and truly utilize them. I also love the program because sometimes parents do not feel comfortable at first going to the educator to talk about struggles or complications, they use Family School Connection as a middle man to work with the school. It is part of their community so they feel comfortable to share and ask for help,” says L. Giannitti of Betances School.
We will all miss Pat, Milagros and Olga and we wish them all happiness and success in their future endeavors. Going forward, Hands On Hartford will continue to impact the lives of children in Hartford through the Backpack Nutrition Program, services to families through our MANNA Community Pantry and Community Meals programs, Peter’s Retreat supportive housing program and Community Engagement projects.