TAP identifies needs and gaps in services and incubates new initiatives to help local organizations and agencies build their capacity to strengthen families, improve education, and promote early literacy. Here’s what we are currently working on:
Family Resource Centers
TAP has dedicated 19 years to working with community organizations, agencies, neighborhoods, and individuals to nurture strength-based, efficient service delivery systems. Our initiatives promote healthy lifestyles, provide access to basic needs, and create opportunities for families to take on leadership roles and make a difference in their own communities. Since 2007, TAP, along with St. John Community members, Allen and Julie Weeks, and numerous other partners, has fostered the resurgence of school-based Family Resource Centers (FRCs). Webb Middle School, once threatened with closure, now stands as a proud example of a thriving campus thanks in part to its Family Resource Center. The population didn’t change, nor did the building, but the doors are now open wide to community participation and support. During the 2009-10 school year, the Webb FRC provided 588 families with support or case management services and established a Parent Academy that provides computer, ESL, parenting, and financial management classes.
In June 2009, AISD awarded TAP with a contract that included seed money to develop four new Family Resource Centers for Pearce, Dobie, Mendez, and Martin Middle Schools. Each emerging FRC has at least a half-time manager and a half-time social worker. The new FRCs have taken root and have engaged 20+ new community partners, along with thousands of dollars of in-kind support that benefits families and youth. All of the new FRCs are now providing struggling families with case management services and connection to critically needed resources. The FRCs help families access low-income housing, health insurance, emergency health care, employment services, legal aid, financial assistance, adult education, and connection to community through local faith-based organizations, neighborhood associations, and community events. The FRCs use a family focused, culturally competent, strength-based approach to service planning and delivery. The FRC model encourages local community engagement and the alignment of existing services in the development of the FRCs. Each FRC is impacting hundreds of families and is helping to improve student attendance, reduce high student mobility rates, and stabilize families living in poverty. FRCs bolster the “stickiness” of schools by aligning external and internal resources, and by being a home for parents’ connection to various youth-focused initiatives. Spanish is spoken in all the FRCs in order to address the high concentration of immigrant and resident Spanish speakers. With time and continued support, the FRCs have the capacity to play a significant role in promoting resilient neighborhoods.
Parent Transition Initiative
The Parent Transition Initiative (PTI) is a pilot project offering support to parents of fifth grade youth who are entering Webb, Burnet, and Mendez Middle Schools in the fall of 2010. The PTI is being developed and managed by The Austin Project (TAP) in collaboration with SafePlace, a local agency that addresses domestic and sexual violence and its impact on youth and families. Support for this initiative is provided by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation as part of Start Strong: Building Healthy Teen Relationships.
The PTI aims to address the challenges of parenting adolescents by encouraging active parental engagement and leadership at the middle school level; by enhancing parents’ skills for modeling supportive and healthy relationships at home, at school and in the community; and by raising awareness about family resources in schools and in the wider community. The PTI will provide economically disadvantaged families in target schools with parenting strategies, tools to promote healthy teen relationships, a support network, leadership opportunities, and an introduction to additional family resources in an effort to encourage parents to remain engaged as their children transition into middle school.
The PTI’s goals are as follows:
- To identify parents’ perceived concerns about the transition to middle school and help them support the social/emotional needs of their children as they move from childhood to adolescence and from elementary school to middle school.
- To engage parents around common issues and offer parenting tools to guide adolescent development.
- To increase parents’ skills for sustaining supportive relationships with their children throughout adolescence and for guiding their children toward healthy peer and dating relationships.
- To identify support resources available to middle school parents, i.e. Family Resource Centers, Parent Support Specialists, Positive Behavior Support Team, PTA, Campus Advisory Council, and prevention and support programs offered through community organizations (such as SafePlace’s Expect Respect Program).
- To encourage and facilitate active parent engagement and leadership in middle schools.
Tutors Galore is a six year partnership between the University of Texas at Austin, AISD, the City of Austin Dept. of Health & Human Services, and TAP. Tutors Galore engages UT Work-Study Financial Aid students to serve as tutors for elementary school children from underprivileged backgrounds who are in need of additional assistance in core subject areas. During the 2008-2009 school year, 225 elementary school-aged children at two East Austin elementary schools received tutoring through TAP’s program. 93.9% of children who received tutoring improved their academic performance; 93.2% of the students demonstrated improved attitudes towards learning. 2,226 hours of tutoring services were delivered overall. Standardized test results (TAKS) and student grades also improved.