When Ikea Sands was 16 years old she was a new single mother living at St. Agnes Home, a residential group home for teen mothers and their infants. Among a variety of services made available to Ikea and her daughter was a Nurturing Families program offered at the Southside Brighter Futures Family Center in Hartford. Ikea took advantage of the Nurturing Families program as well as a variety of other programs for her and her daughter. Fast forward nine years and Ikea is now working at Southside providing services to new mothers thanks to the ongoing support she received from the Brighter Futures Family Centers.
“I received so much support for me and my daughter LeAzjiah through our involvement with the staff and other participants of Southside’s Nurturing Families program,” Ikea said. “The home visiting program was just one of the benefits I received as I was also introduced to a supportive community of parents and staff that became the family I never really had before.”
The Hartford Foundation recognizes the value of offering these kinds of services to families in a nurturing and supportive environment. In June, the Foundation awarded the centers $780,000 to continue this support that has been so beneficial to residents like Ikea.
Since 1995, the Hartford Foundation has supported Brighter Futures Family Centers. Family Centers are designed to meet neighborhood families’ specific needs and interests, and foster young children’s success in school and beyond. Centers are located in the Asylum Hill, Behind the Rocks, Blue Hills, Frog Hollow, Clay Arsenal and Parkville neighborhoods. Numerous community and state organizations provide programs in partnership with the Family Centers, increasing the range and accessibility of services for Hartford families.
“Brighter Futures Family Centers serve as community hubs,” said Richard Sussman, the Hartford Foundation’s director of early childhood investments. “They are places where families can stay connected long after immediate crises or services have been delivered. The Centers emphasize family development and underscore the importance of function families being their child’s first teachers. They also serve as innovation hubs for new programs and services being developed by agencies and government.”
Ikea and LeAzjiah continued to participate in programs and activities at Southside. Because of her active participation and the training she received at Southside, when Ikea was 20 she had an opportunity to apply for, and get, a job working at Southside’s childcare program through a temp agency. As a result of her stellar performance, Ikea was eventually offered a permanent position. Continuing to excel in her childcare work, Ikea later applied for an open position working in the Nurturing Families program, the very program that first brought her to the Southside. She now works with young mothers experiencing many of the things she first dealt with nine years ago. Ikea serves as an example of how you can re-make a life for yourself and your children.
“We believe all parents are integral to the lives of their children serving as their first nurturers, teachers and advocates,” said Sussman “Hartford’s six neighborhood-based Brighter Futures Family Centers, with backbone support from three community agencies Catholic Charities, Family Life Education and the Village for Children and Families, provide programs, services and a caring community to support parents and families in these vital roles. Last year, Brighter Futures Family Centers served more than 1,500 Hartford families.”
The $780,000 in grants from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving will ensure that Brighter Futures Family Centers have the resources they need to be able to not only offer programs but continue to directly support families and enhance opportunities for all Hartford children to learn and thrive.
The groundbreaking work being done at Hartford’s Brighter Futures Family Centers is now being recognized beyond Hartford. One of the Family Centers’ nonprofit partners, Catholic Charities, has replicated the Family Center model at two new centers in Waterbury and New Haven.
The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, established in 1925, is the community foundation for 29 communities in the Hartford region. It is dedicated to putting philanthropy into action to create lasting solutions that result in vibrant communities within the Greater Hartford region. It receives gifts from generous individuals, families and organizations, and in 2013 awarded grants of more than $29 million to a broad range of area nonprofits. For more information, visit www.hfpg.org or call 860-548-1888.