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Lauren Dartt – Tennyson Center for Children
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Tennyson Center for Children Announces Merger with Families Together
Merger is First in Larger Statewide Effort to Integrate Multiple
Colorado Child Welfare Agencies to Help Kids and Families Thrive
DENVER – (Oct. 19, 2020) – Tennyson Center for Children (Tennyson Center), serving Colorado’s most neglected, abused, and traumatized children for over a century, announced today a unique merger with Families Together (formerly Foster Together). Foster mom Hope Forti and her late husband, Kyle Forti, founded the Colorado Springs-based nonprofit three years ago after their experience as foster parents revealed the high level of support needed for families of children who have experienced trauma. Families Together offers volunteers an easy way to support isolated families. The merger will allow both agencies to offer additional services in fresh ways throughout Colorado, supporting a deeper level of healing for children.
This merger is part of Tennyson Center’s new statewide effort to build a stronger ecosystem that supports family wellbeing throughout Colorado and nationally in order to reduce the number of families entering the child welfare system. This innovative ecosystem will include new partnerships with Colorado child welfare agencies and nonprofits that will help mend gaps in the current child welfare system.
“Oftentimes, foster parents, caseworkers, service providers, and even birth parents are working separately, sometimes in opposition to one another, to help a child with trauma,” said Ned Breslin, president and CEO of Tennyson Center. “Bringing in Families Together as a partner is the first step to breaking down silos in child welfare, creating a larger framework of child wellbeing that really put kids at the center – surrounding them with incredible people working in intentional, collaborative ways to help them thrive.”
Social isolation and family stress are two major indicators of neglect or abuse at home (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Many families, already facing loneliness and financial stress from COVID-19, need community support now more than ever. Many kids living with at-risk families during these times are not being seen by teachers, coaches, therapists or other professionals and are often stuck under the same roof in unsafe situations during remote learning. In fact, Colorado’s Child Abuse and Neglect hotline saw a significant drop in calls – nearly 40% (from 4,426 to 2,435 calls) – in just one week after schools moved to online learning platforms. Tennyson Center has already seen an increase in acuity since COVID-19 and those children appear to be experiencing more significant trauma. The Families Together Neighbors Program directly addresses both stress and isolation by providing volunteers to help families feel supported.
Families Together vets, trains, and matches volunteer Neighbors with self-identified, isolated families statewide. A Neighbor will deliver meals, groceries or care packages (in person or socially distanced during the pandemic) to a family they’re matched with for approximately six months and forge a friendship and connection through encouraging notes and phone calls. This community support network helps stabilize families and children, simultaneously reducing the chance that children need to go to foster care, or a program like Tennyson Center’s residential services. Currently there are 50 Denver-area families matched with the Neighbors program through Tennyson Center, with dozens more throughout Colorado, California, and Texas.
“Every family needs someone who cares about them,” said Hope Forti, founder of Families Together, who will now serve as Director of Families Together at Tennyson Center. “A good Neighbor takes a practical task off a parent’s plate – like providing a warm or frozen meal or sending an encouraging note in the mail – and in doing so says, ‘I see what you’re doing for your kids – thank you for loving them.’ That fills a parent up in a way that they can’t do for themselves. And it makes all the difference. Families Together will continue to build that good Neighbor village for isolated families, creating a stronger environment for Tennyson’s kids to heal and succeed.”
The merger reinforces Tennyson Center’s acclaimed intensive therapy that supports children healing from trauma both on campus and in homes in 19 Colorado counties. Intensive therapy helps reintegrate children back into stable homes – often a foster or kinship home. Families Together adds a protective layer of community support to the healing process.
Tennyson Center’s core mission involves working with children and families impacted by trauma. Over the past several years, the agency shifted its programmatic modeling to align more closely with the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA), which requires states to keep more kids out of group homes and institutions, remaining instead with parents, relatives, or foster families. This has included Tennyson’s Rewiring work, aimed at ensuring that families remain safely together and eventually reducing the number of children and families involved with the child welfare system (by shifting state funding toward prevention and early intervention work). Additional work includes supporting Colorado’s community of foster families who take in neglected or abused children, as well as a newer plan to follow kids and families after they’ve been involved in Tennyson Center programs to ensure they are getting the support they need and are set up to succeed.
Along with community support through Neighbors, Tennyson will also continue Families Together’s Changing the Story program which aims to change the public perception about at-risk families. Through engaging storytelling on social media and a podcast series, Families Together hopes to keep family wellbeing top of mind for Coloradans and change the negative stigmas toward kids from traumatic backgrounds.
Those interested in supporting Families Together at Tennyson Center can learn more, volunteer, or donate at https://www.tennysoncenter.org/familiestogether/.
About Tennyson Center for Children
Tennyson Center for Children has served Colorado’s most neglected, abused, and traumatized children since 1904. Tennyson provides a safe and stable home for kids ages 5-18 who are facing critical circumstances and offers an accredited, therapeutic K-12 school with a 4-to-1 student-to-teacher ratio on their campus. Tennyson’s clinicians enter diverse counties across the state to provide preventative services and therapy to strengthen families with children of all ages. In 2019, Tennyson launched Rewiring, a statewide, collaborative effort to provide earlier intervention and resources to families in order to strengthen them and prevent them from entering child welfare. Learn more at www.tennysoncenter.org.
About Families Together
Launched in 2017, Families Together (formerly Foster Together) trains and matches volunteers called “Neighbors” who provide a monthly meal and friendship to families who feel isolated. As a result, children grow up with caregivers (often foster, kinship, and dedicated biological parents) refreshed by the practical and emotional support of their Neighbor who says, “Your kids are worth the effort, and I want to help.”
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