The Power of Partnership: The Vital Role FRCs Can Play in Schools
By Fiona Lavelle, California Family Resource Association
A strong partnership between a school district and its local Family Resource Center (FRC) can help with early intervention and lead to improved outcomes for students. FRCs can open access to an array of supports for students and their families and schools are valuable resources for FRCs. The following success story contributed by an AmeriCorps member providing case management in a school-based Family Resource Center in northern California demonstrates the power of these partnerships.
From our first meeting, Angelica was a bubbly, energetic student, but she’d been struggling in school and needed some extra support. Because of the existing relationship her school had with our Family Resource Center, her school counselor knew about the services we could offer a student like Angelica, who was facing challenges both at home and at school. The counselor referred her to our center because she was in danger of failing Algebra and losing her spot in a college preparatory program, and she had a feeling that her foster parents could use some help too. Angelica began participating in mentoring sessions and afterschool tutoring at the Family Resource Center, in addition to the lunch groups I conducted on campus twice each week as part of the partnership between our center and the school district. In these group sessions, Angelica learned to express herself through art, poetry, and discussions.
Relieved to finally talk about the difficult experiences she was facing at home, she told me about abuse she had experienced in her childhood, the separation from her sister, and the troubled relationship with her foster mother. She also opened up about her difficulties in math class. She struggled to understand key concepts and had been failing homework and quizzes. Because of our center’s relationship with the school, I was able to stay in close communication with her teachers and counselors. Together we made sure that Angelica had the support she needed to be successful.
The center provided her with school supplies and together we organized her math binder. She started to get higher marks in her binder checks and homework assignments and her teachers commented about the difference in Angelica’s attitude as her confidence grew.
As her academic performance improved, my colleagues and I wanted to be sure that her foster parents were also supported. Although her foster parents could provide for her basic needs, they often struggled financially. I referred them to a program that granted funding for school-related activities for foster youth, and they were grateful to finally have field trip money, which enabled Angelica to attend two field trips to Six Flags and UC Berkeley.
She shared her aspirations of attending college and becoming a famous writer one day. Together we discussed the steps she needed to take to get there and created a blog where she could upload her stories.
Angelica wrote me a letter at the end of the school year; she said that because of my help, she had passed her math class and was able to successfully finish the year.
The success of this student can be attributed to the strength of the partnership between the school and its local Family Resource Center (FRC), in which school and center staffs could seamlessly coordinate resources and information. The school and FRC followed some key best practices:
- The FRC was integrated into the school, which made it easy for Angelica’s counselor to refer her to the center for early intervention.
- The FRC case manager worked with school staff in a team, which facilitated fluid communication between the case manager and Angelica’s teacher and school counselor.
- The FRC played a central role in working with the family.
- The FRC had a strong presence at the school site. By leading regular groups on campus, students were familiar with FRC staff and barriers to participation were reduced as the groups were held in a convenient location.
Family Resource Centers are community-based organizations that provide comprehensive family support services to children and their families. Centers work in deep partnership with parents, teachers, school officials, and a vast network of service providers to facilitate lasting personal and academic growth for students.
For more information and best practices on partnering with Family Resource Centers to support LCFF priorities, see CFRA’s chapter: Why Family Resource Centers Matter. Or visit CFRA online at CaliforniaFamilyResource.org.