Children’s Home strengthens offerings with new programs


An agency once known primarily for adoption programs continues to add depth and breadth to its social service portfolio, recently taking on several programs that will be directed from its offices in the Toogood Building at 2230 Como Avenue.

Late in 2009, Children’s Home Society and Family Services (CHSFS) took over Family Networks, a Hennepin County-based agency. At about the same time, it was designated to manage the Strong and Peaceful Families program, an effort jointly supported by the city of St. Paul and Ramsey County.

In addition, at the start of 2010, the Carlson Companies donated its corporate early learning center in Plymouth, Minn., to CHSFS. That facility will now be open to the public as one of 11 early learning centers the agency operates in the metropolitan area.

According to Kathy Kukielka, CHSFS and Family Networks complement one another nicely. “We already had been doing counseling for children and their families,” said the CHSFS vice president of advancement, “but Family Networks offers a more intensive therapeutic approach, including day treatment programs, outpatient services and early intervention and prevention.”

The Family Networks name will be retained for the immediate future and its services added to existing CHSFS program offerings in Ramsey County. In turn, the new relationship will allow CHSFS to expand its family support and post-adoption services into Hennepin County from Family Network sites.

“In the current economy,” said Kukielka, “it’s been difficult for small and medium-size nonprofits to thrive. By joining CHSFS, Family Networks can achieve efficiencies through combined human resources, no longer having to contract out their information technology function and things of that nature.”

The Amherst H. Wilder Foundation had directed the Strong and Peaceful Families effort since its inception four years ago, but budget cuts at Wilder forced it to withdraw, according to Donald Gault, Healthy Communities Section manager at the St. Paul-Ramsey County Department of Public Health. The department sponsors the program, along with the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office and the St. Paul City Attorney’s Office, a partnership known as the Joint Domestic Abuse Prosecution Unit.

“Wilder did a superb job with the program and we’re very sorry that relationship had to end,” said Gault. “However, we’re thrilled that CHSFS is taking over, because we’ve worked with them over the years and know how excellent their services and staff are.”

Each year, city and county prosecutors refer 15 to 30 families that have experienced serious domestic violence to the Strong and Peaceful Families program, said Gault. There is a strong emphasis on helping children deal with the effects of witnessing such violence, he added, to help them avoid becoming abusers themselves one day.

“Our goal is to break that cycle, and we’ve found that through what can be some pretty intensive interaction, we’ve been able to help some families become violence-free for the first time in generations,” Gault said.

Kukielka said that Strong and Peaceful Families will tie in with Family Networks’ group counseling for children and its parenting workshops.

The expanded program offerings, she said, enable CHSFS to seek support from a wider range of potential funding sources.

Does CHSFS plan future program expansion?

“We already do some school-based counseling and are actively seeking partners to do more of that, reaching out to more schools, including those in the Como area and charter schools, as well,” she said.

The new programs join the CHSFS Post-Adoption Services and Financial and Home Ownership Education programs at the Como Avenue location. CHSFS headquarters is at 1605 Eustis St.