Strong families building strong communities.
Cleveland Heights Facility: 2843 Washington Blvd.; Cleveland Heights, OH 44118
Shaker Family Center Facility: 19824 Sussex Rd; Shaker Heights, OH 44122
Karen Gillooly, Director of Programs
- Tell us about your organization…
Family Connections’ mission is to strengthen families with young children. We strengthen each family’s capacity to support the growth and development of their children. We also affirm and work to incorporate each families’ cultural, racial, and linguistic identities into our work with the family and enhance their ability to function in a multicultural society.
Our services support parents in their critical roles as their child’s first teachers. Our programming guides and enables parents in play and other early literacy activities and in engaging productively with the school environment. We provide targeted interventions for children, combined with parent engagement, that serve to narrow the achievement gap in kindergarten and continue to positively impact the child’s third grade reading level. According to 2012 Cuyahoga County data, nearly 64% of kindergarteners entered school unprepared. Without targeted interventions, these children fall farther behind, making it difficult to catch up by third grade. Based on the premise that children living in poverty are particularly vulnerable but that family support and early literacy are universal needs, we provide programming in the first ring suburbs of Cleveland Heights, East Cleveland, Maple Heights, Shaker Heights and Warrensville Heights as well as in three neighborhoods within the City of Cleveland – Central, Slavic Village and the near west side.
Our services are:
- Family playrooms located in our own centers in Shaker Heights and Cleveland Heights, and in partnership with public libraries, in the Shaker Heights Public Library, Cleveland Heights Library and in the Woodland Branch of the Cleveland Public Library. These playrooms provide an engaging, parent and child learning center that helps prepare children, ages birth to five, for kindergarten. They position parents to facilitate their own child’s learning and development. The playrooms’ specially trained staff assist in the building of networks with other parents, and connect participants with community resources, provide information on parenting and healthy child development, and model productive engagement with learning and play.
- SPARK (Supporting Partnerships to Assure Ready Kids). SPARK is a family-focused, kindergarten readiness, home visiting program for three and four year old children and their parents. Our staff, called Parent Partners, conduct one-on-one monthly in home visits to strengthen school readiness skills and empower parents to become actively involved in their child’s education. This is a free service offered in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, East Cleveland Public Schools, Maple Heights, and Warrensville Heights.
- Family School Connection – offered to kindergarten and first grade children and families in the 7 elementary schools in Cleveland Heights-University Heights and at Mound Elementary in CMSD. Family School Connection provides a variety of educational and family support services designed to promote school success and parental involvement, thereby, reducing the achievement gap. Services are offered in classrooms during the school day and during specially-scheduled evenings (with dinner and childcare) as well as in community settings and homes.
- Parenting Plus classes, is an 8-week session format, takes place twice a year for the purposes of reducing parental stress, isolation and providing parenting guidance. Childcare, dinner and support are provided to maximize participation.
- What influenced your decision to become a member of Early Ages Healthy Stages?
When I attended for the first time, I was not familiar with the group. I was impressed with the goals, collaboration, energy and participation of a wide range of programs and staff.
- How has your partnership with Early Ages Healthy Stages influenced your organization?
I share many resources from the group with our staff who work directly with families who have children ages 0-7. We work with families who have children in preschool and encourage those who are not enrolled to become enrolled. I bring the goals and activities to the attention of our staff so they can incorporate them into their work with families of young children.
- What have you gained from working with Early Ages Healthy Stages?
I have gained a better understanding of guidelines and regulations for child care programs in terms of meals served to young children. I have learned about activities and programs designed to strengthen the health and well-being of families and children. I have learned about a variety of community resources, advocacy issues and ways to support families to make healthy food choices.
- Why should other community organizations get involved with EAHS?
The more people and organizations who can be advocates for the health and well-being of young children and families the better. EAHS provides leadership for other organizations and brings together a wide range of providers and services that will strengthen others.