Founded to support parents and families
In 1976, from her studies at University of Chicago, University of Illinois and Northwestern University, Bernice Weissbourd knew that parent support was key to early childhood development. With funding from her husband, Bernard Weissbourd, and Chicago businessman and philanthropist, Irving Harris, Family Focus opened a space for parent support in a room at the Miller School in Evanston. Former Evanston Alderman Delores Holmes joined Bernice as the first center director, and Family Focus became a drop-in center for parents with young children to gather. Word quickly got out about a woman who was developing the family support model, which started a pilgrimage of more than 80 other agencies and organizations from across the country sending representatives to Evanston to witness the family support movement in action.
With this popularity and community needs growing, Family Focus Woodlawn opened in 1977, followed shortly by Family Focus Lincoln Park in 1978. Over the years as needs grew, more centers were founded in areas such as Aurora, Cicero, DuPage, and Highland Park, Illinois, and the Chicago neighborhoods of Englewood, North Lawndale, and Belmont Cragin. Today, the Principles of Family Support are not only a pillar of Family Focus services, but also the field of early childhood development.
Merging with Chicago Child Care Society
Chicago Child Care Society (CCCS) was the longest standing social service agency in Illinois. CCCS first opened its doors as the Chicago Orphan Asylum in 1849, when children were left homeless after their parents lost their lives to a cholera epidemic. Since then, CCCS has served Chicago’s children throughout our country’s historic events that shaped family needs – the Civil War, the Great Chicago Fire, and both world wars.
In the mid- to late-20th century, CCCS became well known for its adoption and foster care work and was a highly regarded authority and partner in establishing policies and regulations in the field. The year 1974 celebrated CCCS’s 125th anniversary with a name change from Chicago Orphan Asylum to Chicago Child Care Society and a move to the present Family Focus Headquarters in Hyde Park. The late 20th century also marked a shift in services from adoption and foster care to early childhood education (ECE) programs, for which Family Focus remains a leader among Chicago agencies in the ECE field.
In January of 2021, Chicago Child Care Society merged with Family Focus to join our shared mission to provide early childhood education, youth development, and family support services in under-resourced communities across Northeast Illinois. The merger expanded our geographic footprint and continuum of services, allowing us to serve more families and children.
Family Focus Today
Today, there are 11 Family Focus direct service centers throughout Chicago and Northeast Illinois providing holistic family support services to families and children enrolled in center programming, home visits, emergency assistance services, and educational programs.
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