A set of beliefs and an approach to strengthening and empowering families and communities so that they can foster the optimal development of children, youth, and adult family members.

A type of grassroots, community-based program designed to prevent family problems by strengthening parent-child relationships and providing whatever parents need in order to be good nurturers and providers. These programs have been proliferating across the country since the 1970s.

A shift in human services delivery that encourages public and private agencies to work together and to become more preventive, responsive, flexible, family-focused, strengths-based, and holistic—and thus more effective.

A movement for social change that urges all of us—policymakers, program providers, parents, employers—to take responsibility for improving the lives of children and families. The family support movement strives to transform our society into caring communities of citizens that put children and families first and that ensure that all children and families get what they need to succeed.

What is a Family Support Center?
A family support center is a warm and welcoming place in the community to which any family can come, not only in times of need, but as a regular part of day-to-day life. Most family support centers offer parenting education classes and materials, child development activities, parent-to-parent support groups and mentoring, parent-and-child activities, and information and referral services. These are modified and added to depending on the needs and desires of local families.

Family support centers are unique in their approach to working with families: they build families’ strengths and capacities, serve as a hub for the community, work for positive social change, and offer help without stigma. Parents act as resources in all sorts of capacities, from sitting on a decision-making board to helping others develop job skills to cooking food for a pot-luck.

Research shows that by investing in positive outcomes for children and families, family support centers can lead to:
  • fewer teenage pregnancies
  • less juvenile delinquency
  • improved behavior and performance of children at school
  • fewer incidents of child abuse and neglect
  • more families moving from welfare to work
  • increased self-confidence, knowledge of child development, and parenting skills among parents
  • greater educational attainment among parents
Principles of Family Support Practice
1) Staff and families work together in relationships based on equality and respect.
2) Staff enhance families’ capacity to support the growth and development of all family members--adults, youth, and children.
3) Families are resources to their own members, to other families, to programs, and to communities.
4) Programs affirm and strengthen families’ cultural, racial, and linguistic identities and enhance their ability to function in a multicultural society.
5) Programs are embedded in their communities and contribute to the community-building process.
6) Programs advocate with families for services and systems that are fair, responsive, and accountable to the families served.
7) Practitioners work with families to mobilize formal and informal resources to support family development.
8) Programs are flexible and continually responsive to emerging family and community issues.
9) Principles of family support are modeled in all program activities, including planning, governance, and administration.




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