Family Focus Evanston began in 1976 as the original drop-in center for parents in Evanston, Illinois. As the flagship location of all Family Focus, Bernice Weissbourd invited parents of young children to come together to provide support and camaraderie for another to promote early childhood development.
Forty years later Family Focus continues to serve the Evanston community. Services available include early childhood home visiting, Family Advocacy Center, after school, Grandparents raising Grandchildren, and community partnership initiatives such as the Foster Street Urban Agriculture program.
Family Focus, Inc. offers innovative, community-based programs that help parents, grandparents, and foster and adoptive parents, gain confidence and competence as the primary educators of their children. Family Focus has seven centers in Chicago and surrounding communities.
After School Programming – Servicing children in the 3rd through 8th grade, after-school activities are offered at the center Monday through during the critical hours of 3 p.m. – 6 p.m.; the time when a lack of constructive activity and supervision can lead to risk-taking behavior. Services continue on school holidays, and for seven weeks during the summer ensuring youth have enriching activities accessible in their free time. The majority of students attend regularly (4-5 days per week throughout the school year for three hours per day). Programs focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), literacy through creative writing, tutoring, visual and preforming arts, character development, life skills training, and social-emotional growth.
Early Childhood Home Visiting – Available to families with children ages birth to three, our Parents as Teachers (PAT) program aims to positively impact early childhood development, promote literacy, and nurture healthy parent-child relationships during the critical years in the comfort of each family’s own home. Home visiting addresses critical years of social, emotional, and cognitive development with the parents in the home. Home visiting staff meet with families in the environment where they spend most of their time and track progress along developmental domains to ensure that children are meeting critical developmental milestones. Home visitors establish a customized Individual Family Support Plan at enrollment that is tracked by parent-teacher teams throughout the year. Parent-child activities are designed to involve the parent and child in sharing and learning activities that foster gross motor, language, fine-motor, social, and emotional skills. All of our services are provided by home visitors, with extensive early childhood and/or social work training. Services include Baby Bucks, developmental screenings, home visiting, parent cafes, and playgroups.
Family Advocacy Center (FAC) – Funded by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), the FAC provides supportive services for DCFS-invovled families in our community. Staff called Family Support Workers (FSWs) provide parenting classes and one-on-one support from a staff member to parents who have been reported to DCFS for potential abuse/neglect. This service has a big impact: Less than 2% of our families are re-reported to DCFS within 18 months in comparison to the Illinois state average of 32% re-reported. Services include parenting classes and coaching, supervised parental visits, access to community resources, court advocacy, home visits, and more.
Fatherhood Initiative – Open to new fathers, teenage fathers, uncles and grandfathers, this group supports fathers in building positive relationships with their children in a safe and welcoming setting. Services include parenting skills workshops, child support information, ex-offender rights, job referrals, father’s rights, and male-female relationship support.
Grandparents Raising Grandchildren – A support group for grandparents raising their grandchildren that provides community and educational support for challenges like advocating for parental rights. The Evanston Grandparents are a lively group participating in group activities such as on-stage performances and self-publishing a book of poetry and essays.
Foster Street Urban Agriculture Program – Established in 2016, our garden program is a collaboration between Family Focus Evanston and The Evanston Food Exchange. The program grows food for the center’s food pantry and the Teen Baby Nursery. During the spring, summer, and fall seasons children in this program learn about planing fresh produce, urban agriculture, entrepreneurship, how to cook with garden produce, how to harvest food, and how to sell their harvests at local farmers markets.
The Family Closet – A community resource where Evanston residents may “shop” (free of charge) for items such as gently-used, seasonal clothing for men, women, and children, toys, strollers, and various other family items. All of the items are provided through community donations. We do our best to offer high-quality items throughout the year.
The Pantry Room – A community resource where Evanston residents may “shop” (free of charge) for non-perishable food items including canned staples (corn, beans, chili, vegetables, etc.), cereal, rice, and pasta. All of the items are provided by community donations.
The support of community volunteers significantly enhances our services. Each program within the center has unique needs. If you are interested in volunteering please contact Vanessa Allen-Graves, Program and Center Director, for opportunities.
Family Focus Evanston has a dynamic and active Advisory Board of Directors. Individuals offering their services and expertise to the Board are an essential part of our thriving and successful organization. We welcome people from all backgrounds and disciplines with our greatest needs being in the areas of fundraising, marketing and finance. Additionally we also have an interest in bringing in people with corporate and business experience. Most importantly we seek members that are civic minded and share our mission.
Click here to view our current Advisory Board of Directors. (Coming soon!)