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The Community Foundation Blog

Empowering young families in Richmond's East End
By The Community Foundation / August 26, 2019
Empowering young families in Richmond's East End

In communities with high percentages of poverty, many families face steep challenges, and the service systems that have been created to assist them are siloed and inefficient. Therefore, families in need of support are forced to navigate across confusing and intensely bureaucratic systems that miss opportunities to effectively support families on their journeys to self-sufficiency.

To address these challenges, the Kellogg Foundation has partnered with the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation to pilot a new approach to service delivery for families in low-income communities. Building off insights gained from its pilot site in Southside Virginia, the program has expanded to Richmond’s East End and is focused on bridging the gap between service systems and families in need of services. It is overseen by Smart Beginnings Greater Richmond, in partnership with community-based organizations that have built trusting relationships with residents.

“We have benefitted from authentically engaging families and hearing their voices has helped inform our work. It is important to continue to provide families information and referrals to services and it is also equally important that we ask them happened as a result of the resource that we provided. We need families to have a seat at the table to effectively address systems, barriers and to help inform solutions.”

— Ruth Frierson, Project Coordinator, Virginia Early Childhood Foundation

The heart of the program and the key to accelerating change is Chanel Bea, the Community Liaison who captures the realities of families, identifies specific barriers and works with decision-makers to find solutions. “Lots of times, people don’t realize that the barriers they’re coming up against have nothing to do with anything they’re doing,” she says. “It’s actually a systematic barrier stopping them, but all they see is their inability to move forward.” Chanel is highly motivated to move her research to action. The goal is to improve service systems so they can better and more efficiently serve those who depend upon them.

Chanel Bea, Tamika, and Ruth Frierson

Tamika’s Story

Adulthood came quickly for Tamika. As the oldest child in a single parent household, she took on many of the day-to-day responsibilities of caring for her siblings. Then at age 17, she became a mother herself. Today, Tamika is raising four children on her own, each attending a different school and each coping with a cognitive or developmental disability.

Tamika’s days are filled with paperwork, medical appointments and teacher conferences, which has made it difficult to find a steady job or make time for herself. Until recently, she felt isolated and depressed. She knew she had to do something different and put herself out there, so she began attending family events held by Peter Paul Development Center where she found a strong and steady support system.

“I think sometimes all it takes is for an organization or a person to have a little bit of faith in you,” Tamika said.

With the right amount of encouragement and guidance, Tamika regained her confidence and says she’s as happy as she’s ever been. Not only are her children receiving the services they need and demonstrating strides forward, Tamika recently began sharing her story to encourage others to be part of a support system by either offering help or seeking help. It has exposed her to new opportunities, including a new job as the Behavioral Health Organizer for Greater Richmond SCAN.

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