A Shining Example of Collective Impact in Small Town Nebraska (The Fremont Family Coalition)
Editor’s Note: as our country and our schools grapple with how to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, we wanted to feature some longstanding and dynamic community-based work that Loyola SMHAPP student Angie Halstead has been involved in. She writes about the Fremont Family Coalition here and its impact on her school’s youth and families.
The Fremont Family Coalition (FFC) is a shining example of a community coming together and working in partnership to improve the lives of its citizens. The FFC began in 2013 as an effort to ensure that young children in the community were school ready. Professionals in the community were concerned that many youths were starting school woefully unprepared (ex. kindergarten teachers were seeing students who were unable to pay attention, follow directions or communicate their thoughts and needs without being disruptive). Those involved in the onset of the collaboration included the Director of Special Education for the Fremont Public Schools, the Director of the local United Way, and leaders from local human services agencies.
At its core, the FFC is a cooperative effort among human services agencies in Fremont meant to ensure that all families’ basic needs are met. The mission of the coalition is to create community partnerships that empower individuals and families to improve their quality of life. The notion that all doors lead to help for a family is a key tenet of the coalition’s work.
Founded on Collective Impact
The Coalition was founded upon the basic principals of collective impact.
Collective impact is an emerging model for creating larger-scale change within community initiatives.
Its core concepts include a shared agenda and measurement systems, mutually reinforcing activities, continuous communication, and a central infrastructure or backbone. In this case, the backbone organization is the Fremont Area United Way.
Upon formation, we were able to apply for grant money that could address the needs of its youngest citizens and improve school readiness through the Sixpence Early Learning Fund. Additional funding was secured through the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation that could be applied towards meeting the basic needs of families who were living in poverty.
The Sixpence Program provides support for four social workers and early childhood educators who work with parents of young children to build literacy and social skills for the children and families involved. Sixpence is free of charge and open to all families who reside in Fremont with children ages zero to three and anyone who is currently expecting. The program works to improve parenting skills and aid parents in identifying and accessing additional services that might be needed for their children. Participation in the program provides three to four home visits each month on top of additional service provision.
Community Response in Action
At the center of it all is community response, a prevention system and an alternative approach that seeks to strengthen families and enhance child well-being without the intervention of the child welfare system.
Once referred to the program, a family works with a local agency that best meets their needs and they are provided with case management and wraparound services. Community Response strives to keep families intact and out of the proverbial “system”.
Community Response came to the rescue for Melissa and her family. Melissa had turned to selling drugs in order to earn extra money to support her family. She had grown up in a family of heavy drug users and knew her way around the local drug culture. She became entangled in the legal system and was required to complete Drug Court. Drug Court is a type of problem-solving court program where offenders dealing with substance abuse issues receive comprehensive drug rehabilitation in lieu of incarceration or probation sentences. Meanwhile, Community Response provided parenting classes and family counseling to assist her in putting the pieces of her family life back together.
Visionary Team: A Dream for the Future
As a school social worker, it has been my pleasure to partner with the FFC by becoming an active member of their visionary team. This team helps to drive the future direction of the Coalition as it relates to the identified needs of the community. More recently, Fremont experienced historic flooding that left many families displaced from their homes. Numerous shelters were set up and a distribution center filled with essential items was established. The FFC is now a part of the coordination of disaster relief efforts in the community. Money and supplies continue to accumulate to help all those affected by this natural disaster and additional donations are managed through the Fremont Area United Way.
As we look towards the future, the Coalition is continuing to work on obtaining additional grant funding to help serve homeless youth as well as those leaving the foster care system. This funding would provide housing subsidies and ongoing case management to ensure that the young people involved have a firm foundation moving forward. The Fremont Family Coalition will continue to be a blessing for this small Nebraska community.
Our ability to take off our agency hats and work together has been what makes this coalition so strong. Strong for the community and strong for families.
Resources Supporting Collective Impact
Flood, J, Minkler, M. Hennessey Lavery, S., Estrada, J., & Falbe, J. (2015). The Collective Impact Model and its potential for health promotion: Overview and case study of a healthy retail initiative in San Francisco.” Health Education and Behavior, 42(5), 654-668.
Kania, J, Kramer, M. “Collective Impact”. (2011, Winter). Stanford Social Innovation Review, 36-41.
Walzer, N & Weaver, L. (Eds.) (2019). Using Collective Impact to Bring Community Change (Community Development and Research and Practice Series). New York, NY. Routledge.