Family strengthening programs encourage and nurture the development of healthy relationships among family members. They are designed to give families the needed support to ensure their children are raised to become healthy, happy individuals.

Through the assistance from Project LAUNCH, our programs support family members in parenting their own children by building on family members’ strengths and taking into account their culture, language, and values. We inform families of the services and policies that affect their lives through our support of programs like the School Social Worker Program and the Family Navigator Program. We create friendships and strong positive social connections through the support of team-sport opportunities and art education.

The Athens County Children Services’ School Social Worker Program serves children and families by promoting positive relationships that enhance school success. Although the program targets children attending area elementary schools, all children under age 8 qualify for services. Through support from Project LAUNCH, the program has been expanded from serving two school districts to three school districts. School social workers create important networks among community members with young children, the elementary schools, and area service providers. In addition, the school social workers regularly refer to the Interdisciplinary Assessment Team.

The Family Navigator Program provides assessments to families with concerns about behavioral, social, and physical well-being of their children and/or family. Navigators Sue Meeks and Ellen Soroka act as guides to help families negotiate the social services systems in our community. Parents or caregivers meet with a navigator in her office, at a school, the library, or the consumer’s home. The setting is selected to match the consumer’s preference. Parent knowledge and ability to choose the appropriate services for their child is the focus of Family Navigating services.

Through the team-sport experience provided by the Greater Athens Soccer Association (GASA), children and families create friendships and build those positive social connections that can provide support in a time of need. Volunteers with GASA recruited 7- and 8-year-old players from Chauncey Elementary School in Athens County. In addition to offering the opportunity to play in a team and to build ties with their community, this program provides physical education to children who may typically be prohibited from playing in the league due to fiscal and transportation constraints. With the help of Project LAUNCH, each player was given the necessary equipment, including a uniform, a soccer ball, water bottle, and cleats.

The Dairy Barn Arts Center, similarly, extends those positive community-building and family-strengthening efforts through art education. Project LAUNCH has made it possible for the art center to partner with elementary schools across our four-county area to provide after-school art education through the “Artists in the Schools” program. The programs include a visual arts component and a dance or movement component. Both are implemented by dedicated art instructors. In addition, the students take a field trip and participate in an art-making activity at the art center. For many children, this is their first visit to an arts center. For some, it's their first trip out of their county. During the summer months, many of those same students have a chance to partake in a summer ArtBreak camp.

Through these efforts, we are striving for a new normal in the lives of these families. We’re creating a community that supports parents as decision-makers and leaders. We’re helping to create settings that build strong social ties that last. But it also recognizes that we are all mutually responsible for better outcomes for children, youth, and families.