FAMILY NETWORK OF HIGHLAND PARK CELEBRATES 30 YEARS OF SERVICE
It may take a village to raise a child, but a strong family that's connected to the community makes all the difference.
“Children do their best when they have strong, supportive families, and families do their best when they are connected and engaged to their community,” says Jordan Friedman, Executive Director of the Family Network of Family Focus in Highland Park. “That philosophy is embedded in all of our work, including our parent educational offerings, early childhood and after-school programs, and our extensive outreach services to the Latino community."
It’s that idea that drives this small, but mighty organization and the reason the Family Network board hopes to attract significant support with its annual Family Network Anniversary Gala Thursday, May 2. All of Highland Park is stronger when its most diverse populations are well served by the Family Network.
Friedman is quick to explain that the Family Network programs are open to everyone. “There is a myth that families on the North Shore have no needs. We know this is not accurate," he says. "In fact, more than 80 percent of the families we serve are living at or below the poverty line. However, many of the families we serve also come from very diverse backgrounds both culturally and socioeconomically. Most of our current board members, including our President, Paula Johnson, first found their way here as a participants!”
The Family Network was founded 30 years ago by 18 Highland Park early childhood professionals, and originally served a more homogeneous, affluent group. Over the years it evolved to serve a larger, more diverse audience, and in 1994 it added support for Highland Park and Highwood’s growing Latino immigrant population. In 2002, they joined forces with Family Focus, an organization started in Evanston by nationally renowned early childhood advocate Bernice Weissbourd. Then in 2004, they partnered with District 112 to create its only in-school after-school program that currently serves five elementary schools.
The community embraced the Family Network and its programming and continues to help it grow. For example, in 2007, soon after she sold her Winnetka fitness business, Pam Phillips Weston founded fitness and wellness programs for Highwood’s Latino population through the Family Network.
The need for Family Network support continues. “One of the strengths of our organization is our partnerships with other institutions that help extend our services within the community,” Friedman says, “but our biggest challenge is securing funding to keep our programs going, and inadequate space to expand.”
With its history of evolution and collaboration, it seems likely that the Family Network will overcome these challenges too.