Families play outside of the Lake Stevens Family Center.
Helping local families in need is what the Lake Stevens Family Center (LSFC) is all about. Families can stop by the center and receive help with everything from searching for jobs to finding ways to provide for their kids to filling out paperwork needed to receive help from government and other organizations.
It’s basically become a “one stop shop” for many local families in need.
Throughout the years in which they have been part of the community, the folks at the Family Center have learned that the best way to truly help families is not just by filling in a gap like helping to clothe them, but by using a holistic approach to create healthy, stable and sustaining households. They are doing this through their Healthy Families Project.
“We’ve been working on this for a couple of years,” Lake Stevens Family Center Director Kathleen Friend said. “We’re excited because the new health care reform that is happening within the state and nation takes a look at what is causing people to become ill.”
They found that most illnesses are brought on by stress and have outlying causes that have nothing to do with poor diet and lack of food but are just stress related.
They have also found that by helping families reach their needs in family health, financial health and physical health, families become healthier as a whole and are better equipped to sustain themselves.
“A couple of years ago we started looking at our assessments, we realized that the needs are equal down the list,” Friend said. “We thought, ‘why are we not addressing all areas equally when someone walks in.’ We are finding that people are having greater success in stabilizing their households and not having to come back to us week after week and month after month, through this program.”
This is where their Healthy Families Project got its start.
The Healthy Families Project includes three major interwoven components.
• Family Health - One-on-one consultation to identify and connect individuals/families to household stabilizing supports for familial health;
• Youth/Parent/Family education: "Strengthening Families" a Proven Practice curriculum, for parents and youth, developed by University of Iowa. The seven-week skill-building series provides education for both child and parent, concurrently; improving child/parent communication; decreasing harmful behavior by youth; and increasing parents' family management skills for those that complete the course
• Local access to conventional services and long-term household sustaining resources including, but not limited to, Basic Food and DSHS application assistance, Legal Assistance and other services delivered within the community that the participants live;
• Skill Building classes including but not limited to: Youth Leadership, CPR/First Aid, Babysitting, resume assistance, English classes for primary Spanish speaking adults and children;
• Support Groups for Grandparents raising Grandchildren, Survivors of Domestic Violence, and others;
• Financial Health - Increased resource access and information including, but not limited to, Financial Counseling Services, Foreclosure mediation, Legal assistance, and other services delivered within the community that the participants live.
• “Survival Budgeting” flexible seven-week course that includes budgeting topics/tools to provide financial education within one-on-one Family Health Consultation or utilized to hold multi-person classes that also include support and network building opportunities.
• Physical Health - helping lower-income families avoid the “Carb Trap” that often leads to obesity, heart disease, and other medical conditions that could hinder their ability to attend school, work, or be active in the community.
• “Cooking More with Less”-cost effective family meal classes – utilizing staple items provided through food banks.
• “Healthy Eating” - integrated into both the Cooking and Budgeting classes - Low-Cost healthy meals meal education.
• Activities/classes/opportunities include, but are not limited to, “Buying More with Less” campaign, Basic Food , Physical Activity through the generations, and other services delivered within the community that the participants live.
“We achieve these goals by treating everyone with respect and equality and making them part of the process, not telling them what they should be doing,” Friend explained.
They also help them get the tools they need to achieve that success.
Through their daily interactions with families, LSFC realized that a portion of those they were helping were coming from outside of Lake Stevens from areas in Granite Falls and Snohomish.
“We realized about two years ago that 10 percent of our resources at the Family Center were going to support people outside of the Lake Stevens School District area —people in Granite Falls and Snohomish,” Friend said. “I met with Mayor Little and told him I would like to open some outreach sites in Snohomish and Granite Falls. We would mentor those facilities to help people in those communities. He was excited.”
And that’s exactly what Friend and her staff have been doing. They are currently working with those cities, their councils and community members to find facilities and Advisory Board members to help implement some of the programs which the Lake Stevens Family Center has in place.
“We have started in Snohomish where we currently have four people willing to be part of the Advisory Council but we are still looking for a site. We are working with the city of Snohomish on this.”
They are also meeting with the Granite Falls City Council this week to see what can be done there.
Because many outside organizations see the benefit of treating the whole family and their needs, they have been blessed with grant monies to help support this new Healthy Families Project.
“Since we have implemented this program and are mentoring these other communities it has really helped the LSFC. With the added funding coming in to support the Healthy Families Project we have enough funding to support a part-time person to help with those outreach centers,” Friend said.
Their work is paying off as witnessed by one family who was facing possible homelessness.
“What I got [at Lake Stevens Family Support Center] was more than I could have ever asked for. After my first visit, I left with a list of resources that could help me- from energy assistance, to medical assistance to food banks. I was even sent home with some food that first visit. I contacted the numbers that were given to me and because of the Family Center I was signed up for TANF, got help with our energy bills, and even found some additional financial help offered by DSHS that helped me get our past due bills caught up to date. This help got us on the path of stability by getting things paid that were past due and to make a financial plan for our future.”
The hope is that families get all of the support they need to be able to move forward in a healthy and positive way.
“We are wanting to have sites where we can bring those services to those people locally. It means that less families will go hungry. Less families will be sick because more families will have the opportunity to apply for medical assistance for their children and certain adults. More families will have the ability to be warm in the winter because they will have better access to those services,” Friend said. “We would like to see these sites open before the end of the school year.”
For more information visit Snohomish County Family Support Centers at www.lcsnw.org/familysupportcenters or Lake Stevens Family Support Center at www.lakestevensfamilycenter.org.