Catholic Charities USA Names Three National Family Strengthening Award Winners

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Catholic Charities Programs from California, Wisconsin, and Connecticut will receive a $25,000 Award from the Annie E. Casey Foundation

ALEXANDRIA, Va., July 22 /-USNewswire/ -- Three innovative Catholic Charities programs from San Jose, CA; Green Bay, WI; and Hartford, CT; have won Catholic Charities USA's 2009 Family Strengthening Awards.

The annual Family Strengthening Awards Program, which has been made possible by the generous support of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, aims to recognize and award exceptional programs that take a holistic approach to providing services that support healthy family relationships, work to improve a family's overall financial situation, and enhance the community where the families live.

"These incredible programs are working to strengthen families and reduce poverty in America," said Rev. Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA. "We need more programs like these if we are going to cut poverty in half by 2020."

"By helping families overcome barriers to self-sufficiency and become economically stable, these programs make it possible for people to build better lives and stronger communities," Fr. Snyder continued.

As winners of Catholic Charities USA's 2009 Family Strengthening Awards, the programs will each receive a $25,000 award. The awardees will be formally honored at Catholic Charities USA's Annual Gathering in Portland, OR, September 23-26, 2009.

Luther Burbank Family Resource Center

Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County, San Jose, CA

Self-sufficiency is the cornerstone of Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County's mission, and nowhere is this more evident than at the agency's Luther Burbank Family Resource Center (LBFRC), located in a high-poverty, under-served community in west San Jose. Funded by First 5, a California organization that fosters the healthy development of children prenatal to age 5, and supported by community partners, LBFRC provides a wide range of family strengthening services to more than 750 young families annually.

Catholic Charities developed the center to meet the requests of parents to have a center where families with young children could go to enjoy enrichment activities together, attend classes and skill training sessions, network with their neighbors, learn more about local resources, and obtain individualized family support services. Now two years old, the LBFRC is housed in its own fully-equipped portable classroom on the campus of Luther Burbank School, right in the heart of the community and within walking distance of major affordable housing units.

In addition to educational programs for children, the center offers a menu of services in one convenient location, which allows families to self-select the programs that best suit their family needs, such as employment training and job development, IDAs and money management, tax assistance, parenting development, and literacy. Families can opt to have a Family Partner, a bilingual, bicultural case manager trained in an assets-based approach that encourages them to make a Family Development Plan, with goals focused on the healthy development of their children and on meaningful family self-sufficiency. Family Partners also provide links to community resources and services.

"The Luther Burbank Family Resource Center is a great collaborative project between Catholic Charities, the school district, and First 5, and it's an honor to be recognized by Catholic Charities USA and the Casey Foundation," said Greg Kepferle, executive director of Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County. "But this honor really goes to the parents. They are just amazing. It is really a tribute to them and an acknowledgement of what they are doing with their kids."

Family Strengthening Program

Catholic Charities, Green Bay, WI

Since 2005, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Green Bay, WI, has been steadily building its Family Strengthening Program (CCFSP), first focusing on budget counseling and financial literacy, and now adding Hispanic outreach and immigration services. Over the last four years, the program has been so successful in removing barriers to success and building strong families that Catholic Charities in Green Bay has come to be considered by its community as the leader on family strengthening and poverty issues.

Family strengthening specialists meet with families to discuss their situations, identify the barriers to their success, and discover what can be done to overcome them. Often, clients are unaware of or don't know how to access services that can help them. CCFSP serves as a bridge to these services.

A major goal of CCFSP is to help families improve their financial situation. Financial illiteracy remains the single greatest barrier to stability and self-sufficiency for individuals and families. Budget counseling helps families develop a spending plan, take advantage of a matched savings plan, and enroll in a debt management plan, which allows clients to repay debt at a more affordable rate and improve their credit. Financial literacy classes cover a range of important topics: credit, renting, banking, money management, and homebuyer education. Free tax preparation also helps low-income families claim valuable tax credits, which they can use to boost their family assets.

CCFSP also addresses other barriers to success, providing housing counseling, parenting workshops, immigration and citizenship services, assistance for families experiencing domestic violence, assistance in family/school relationships, and workshops on cultural issues affecting Hispanic families. Through community partnerships, the program can also assist with other needs.

"We're so excited about receiving the Family Strengthening Award, and humbled," said Karen Johnston, executive director of Catholic Charities in Green Bay. "These last several years, we've looked at what other agencies were doing in family strengthening and tried to do the same with our program. So this is such a gift to have our program recognized, especially for those who have embraced family strengthening and worked so hard with families. We've seen so much success with this in moving people out of crisis."

El Centro Family Center

Catholic Charities, Hartford, CT

Catholic Charities of Hartford's El Centro Family Center strengthens families by encouraging children, adults, and seniors to reach their full potential. The center's family specialists work with families that need services, support, leadership development, early childhood education, adult education and training, crisis intervention, and stabilization. The program seeks to help parents recognize that they are their children's first and most important teachers, natural supporters, and most powerful advocates, and further, that they are decision makers who can have a positive impact in their families and communities.

El Centro is located within a new facility that also houses the agency's Institute for the Hispanic Family (IHF), which was founded 30 years ago to provide culturally and linguistically competent services and to meet the specific needs of low-income Latino families.

El Centro offers Paraiso Infantil, a bilingual bicultural full-day school readiness program for pre-schoolers; the Nurturing Families Program, which provides home visits, case management, and parenting training to young new and at-risk parents; ESL classes; child and family literacy classes; parent workshops; cultural events and cultural awareness training; computer training; job search assistance; and other services. In addition, because of its shared location with IHF, families can seamlessly access case management, behavioral health services, substance abuse treatment, financial literacy education, workforce development and employment and basic human needs services.

El Centro puts a strong emphasis on intergenerational programming, especially between Paraiso Infantil and the IHF's Hispanic Senior Center. Intentionally building connections between children, seniors, families, and staff builds a sense of community, where people can celebrate their Hispanic culture together and gain from what each has to offer. Parents and community members act as volunteers, advisory board members, and consultants on various projects and are encouraged to make the community a better place.

"We are very proud to receive a Family Strengthening Award," said Rose Alma Senatore, executive director of Catholic Charities in Hartford. "With our new facility, we were able to expand the family center and bring senior programs, our child care services, our family center, and other services into one building. That's made us better able to respond to the needs of Hispanic families and to build upon the importance of family in the Hispanic culture."

Family Strengthening Award Finalists

The following programs were named as finalists: Catholic Charities Communities Services, Prescott, AZ; Family Homelessness Prevention Services, Catholic Charities CYO, San Francisco, CA; Project ACCESS, Catholic Charities of the East Bay, Oakland, CA; El Centro de Recursos para Familias, Catholic Charities, Trenton, NJ; Union Square Revitalization Project, Catholic Charities, Metuchen, NJ; Nazareth House Family Shelter, Catholic Charities, New York City, NY; Sexual Offenders Treatment Program, Child Center-Marygrove, Florissant, MO.

Catholic Charities USA's members -- more than 1,700 local Catholic Charities agencies and institutions nationwide -- provide help and create hope for nearly 8 million people a year regardless of religious, social, or economic backgrounds. For almost 300 years, Catholic Charities agencies have worked to reduce poverty by providing a myriad of vital services in their communities, ranging from health care and job training to food and housing. In 2010, Catholic Charities USA celebrates its centennial anniversary.

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