FSNH National Network of Family Strengthening Networks Summit

Leaders from family strengthening and family support networks from nine states gathered in New Hampshire at a national summit Oct 22-24, 2013. The National Network of Family Support & Strengthening Networks (NNFSSN) is a membership-based organization comprised of statewide networks that focus on strengthening and supporting families. Each of these networks consists of two or more Family Resource Centers or Family Strengthening organizations. This was the second in-person meeting of Network members this year.

The N.H. visit was much more than leaf peeping, these professionals discussed adopting national standards of quality for the family strengthening and family support field. Family Support New Hampshire (FSNH) hosted the meetings, which were held at Easter Seals Child Development and Family Resource Center on South Main Street in Manchester. The Family Services director, Erin Boylan, was recently elected president of FSNH, the statewide coalition of family support and family resource centers.

The visiting professionals included Andrew Russo representing both the San Francisco Family Support Network and the California Network of Family Support and Strengthening Networks. Andrew serves as the current co-chair of the National Network of Networks. Four people from New Hampshire represented FSNH, which joined the National Network this year, Karen Welford of Laconia, Lori Fowler of Nashua, Maria Doyle of Concord, Tiffani Arsenault of Berlinand Erin Boylan. Representatives from Alabama, Massachusetts, Colorado, Florida, Maryland, Arizona and Pennsylvania also participated.

The national standards will define both minimum and high-quality family support and strengthening services, providing a blueprint for families’ expectations and programs’ efforts to plan and implement services. This will in turn improve outcomes with families.

A highlight of the visit to New Hampshire was Thursday’s tour of Family Resource Centers. Participants toured the Family Connections Center at the NH State Prison in Concord and the Family Resource Center of Center NH in Laconia. All were impressed by the supports families in New Hampshire are receiving and the commitment and resourcefulness of the staff working with them.

"Visiting the prison-based FRC was a powerfully moving and eye-opening experience. The perseverance and dedication of the staff who had developed and sustained the program in the face of great obstacles to its very existence was remarkable and inspiring. Hearing first-hand from the fathers who participated about what an enormous positive difference this oasis of hope had made in their lives left not a dry eye amongst us," said Russo.

Concluding the summit, the participants decided the National Network would adopt national standards. Attendees returned to their home states to discuss a proposal to adopt a specific set of standards currently used in Arizona, California, and Colorado further with their in-state networks. All were enthused at the prospect of having an impact on quality services for families through the use of common standards.

Families can learn more about NH’s network of Family Resource Centers and family support programs on our FSNH page.