By Garrett Simmons FCSS Communications
What if there was one place where local families could get access to every service they might need?
In southern Alberta, Family Resource Networks (FRNs) have become that solution. Introduced in 2020 throughout the province, FRN’s have sprouted up in Coaldale through Family and Community Support Services and in Lethbridge via the Opokaa’sin Early Intervention Society and Family Centre Lethbridge.
“FRNs are networks of agencies, working together to provide high-quality prevention and early-intervention services to children, youth and families in their community,” said Marg Stastny, Early Intervention and FRN Specialist with the Government of Alberta. “The supports are specifically targeted to who may need support, and they provide guidance to build healthy families and contribute to healthy communities.”
Strengthening parenting and caregiver knowledge is key to the FRN concept, as the networks focus on providing evidence-based services to children and youth aged 0 to 18, and their families.
“For our FRN hub, we try and act as a one-stop shop for referrals and information for our region,” said Petra DeBow, FCSS Manager, who added even though the hub is in Coaldale, FCSS has physical locations in all 24 communities it serves.
The Hub includes Indigenous and Low German Mennonite services, parent education, youth services (including assistance with grief, loss and trauma and 2SLGBTQIA+ supports) and counselling, and Home Visitation through Parents as Teachers.
For FCSS, the hub also provides a crucial system-navigation function, as the FCSS intake co-ordinator can point families in the right direction and connect them with outside agencies if needed.
The Family Centre Lethbridge hub serves the same purpose for city residents, with spoke services that include the Alberta Health Services Families First Home Visitation program, Lethbridge School Division’s Family Support Program, the McMan Family Preservation program, Parents as Teachers Home Visitation and Lethbridge Family Services Families Thriving Together program. The centre also offers two internal spokes Parents Education and Play and Family Success Programming, offering everything from one-hour sessions to an intensive nine-month program.
“As a hub, we have a designated family connector staff member,” said Maral Kiani, Family Centre Executive Director, who added that connector has an in-depth knowledge of the programs available through the hub, along with a list of outside agencies available for referrals. “They also interview the family to see where their needs may lie.”
That approach provides families with the wraparound services they require, with the goal to provide assistance where it’s needed, when it’s needed.
“There are a lot of options and resources available, and a lot of connections have been made between agencies,” said Kiani of the hub concept. “It’s been a success in terms of what it is providing and the connections it is making.”
For FCSS, the FRN has led to a “more co-operative approach among its staff and between departments,” said DeBow, who added it has also allowed FCSS to expand its available resources throughout the region.
And while the FRN concept has received positive reviews, Stastny added improvements are always being examined.
“We do have semi-annual and annual reporting, and what we can see is there are positive outcomes,” she said. “Families are accessing services and getting the support they need but we have also identified a few gaps, where there is a need to increase services in some areas.”
In general, Stastny added the collaboration, partnerships and information sharing between agencies in Alberta has benefited greatly from the FRN concept.
“There’s more connectiveness now between organizations than we have even seen before,” she said.
To learn more about the FCSS FRN hub, please visit https://fcss.ca/frn or call 403-795-3328.
More details on Family Centre Lethbridge’s FRN hub can be found at www.famcentre.ca/family-resource-network, or by calling 403-320-4232.
The Opokaa’sin Early Intervention Society’s Indigenous FRN hub co-ordinator can be reached email@example.com or 403-380-2569. Details on services provided can be found at www.opokaasin.org/programs-services.
By Garrett Simmons FCSS Communications