In response to significant disparities in opportunities for children and families in Orange County, the Family Success Alliance (FSA) was formed as a place-based initiative to work with Orange County families to ensure success from cradle to college and career. FSA uses a “collective impact” approach to bring together community members, local government agencies, non-profits, and other community leaders who are committed to ensuring that all children in Orange County have the opportunity to thrive in school, jobs, and community. The work is facilitated by a core group of backbone staff located at the Orange County Health Department, and guided by the Family Success Alliance Advisory Council and the communities that make up each zone. The initiative is designed to reduce the effects of poverty on children’s development and academic achievement by implementing evidence-based practices that are responsive to the priorities and needs of families, and by influencing larger systems and policy change to create a more just community. The work is modeled on the Harlem Children’s Zone.
As a place-based initiative, FSA is currently working in two zones within the county. The zones were selected through a data- and community-driven process, which included the creation of a county-wide poverty index that identified six zones where families were struggling to make ends meet. After an intensive community engagement process, all six zones identified champions and applied to be a part of the FSA. In December 2014, the Advisory Council, created by the county commissioners, selected two zones to pilot the work. A gap analysis done in partnership with the two zones identified community priorities, including affordable, high quality childcare, school readiness, and meeting basic family needs.
In 2015, FSA began a strategic planning process and launched initial programming to meet those needs. Major program areas include: 1) Navigator Program, a peer support program in which successful community members (navigators) support families in reaching their goals, in connecting with schools and community services and programming, and in bringing family perspectives to help improve services and break down systemic barriers to success; 2) Summer Kindergarten Readiness Program and other summer & afterschool enrichment activities, available through zone schools in both the Orange County and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School Districts; and 3) coordination & support for programming that align with family goals, provided by partner nonprofit agencies (e.g., mental health services, financial planning, child care scholarships, etc.)