Every parent knows it takes hard work to keep his or her family going. Adults who care for young children or older parents know how hard it can be to keep life balanced. These roles, which are integral to the family structure, are not always easy to assume. This is when the caring and sharing functions of the community take center stage by providing outlets of support.
Families come in all types and sizes, but they have one thing in common—they are a team composed of many talented players. A community, just like a family, is also a team with family members from the social service industry, arts organizations, school systems, organizations and businesses playing important roles in the success of our local families.
According the United Way’s recent community assessment, more than 19 percent of families living in our Tri-County area earn less than $25,000 annually, compared to the state average of 17 percent. Fewer families are at the top of the income scale, with 14 percent of the Tri-County area reporting incomes of $100,000 or more, compared to 18 percent for the entire state.
In the upcoming fiscal year, the Heart of Illinois United Way is allocating more than $1.1 million to family programs that will help families function successfully in the community while providing social, health, emergency and educational resources. United Wayfunded family programs include counseling, disaster services, legal services, emergency shelters, respite care, parent skill courses, outreach services and much more. These programs will help “at risk” families who fall below poverty line standards, assist the growing Hispanic population and increase literacy among adults and children.
Success by 6® is also focused on helping families, specifically those caring for young children up to the age of 6. These innovative programs focus on daily activities that parents, grandparents and children can enjoy together, while learning about the world around them. The major cornerstones of Success by 6® include creating public awareness of early childhood issues and improving access to services for young children.
Over the last year, the Heart of Illinois United Way has been instrumental in a new collaborative program that is positively impacting families who are part of the Peoria Public School District. PACES, or Peoria Area Community and Educational Services, is a full-service substance abuse and mental health program for students in kindergarten through high school. Drug and alcohol use and abuse issues accompany students to school, interfering with learning and the classroom environment while leading to problems such as violence, anger, physical and mental abuse. PACES is strengthening local families through outreach and mentoring while providing them with a platform for sharing perspectives and solutions.
Families are so much more than just groups of individuals. They are our first sense of “home”—the first place where every child and adult should feel they are important and can pursue their dreams while providing a sense of belonging and a source of emotional support and security. To be a healthy community, it is essential to make health and social service programs available to families. IBI