How do we summarize the successes of so many people, every year, in our more than 35 programs across Northern New Jersey? The same way we do everything at Family Connections: One human being at a time.
“In 6th grade, my great-grandfather died. I was acting out, getting suspended, getting into a lot of stuff, and not talking about what was going on inside me. I kept it all inside.
I’m a very emotional person and my counselors at Family Connections helped me understand my feelings. I don’t break down like I used to. I learned to express myself through talking and writing poetry and not through getting into trouble.
Now I have confidence in myself and I’m doing better in school. I’m a strong person after all I’ve been through. If Family Connections didn’t turn me around and help me find my strength, I’d probably be in big trouble now.
Kids should know: You’re not alone. You need to talk to someone who listens and makes you happy. And express how you feel. If you draw, then draw. If you sing, then sing.”
“Ava’s father and mother weren’t doing the right things. Her mother ran wild and her father’s in jail. So when she was four years old, I went to Court and got custody of her.
Two years ago, we lost her great-grandfather, who was her father figure. That hit her hard. And I was concerned because she was running with some bad kids.
Since coming to Family Connections, she’s gotten over some of her wildness. She loves her counselors. She’s very smart and she’s definitely paying more attention to her studies.
I’m 84 but God gave me strength so I just do what I can. I try to teach her manners and how to be a good girl.”
—Ava attended both Outpatient Counseling and Outreach to At-Risk Youth
“I was raised in an emotionally abusive household. Then I married a man who was just like my father. We adopted our kids from the Ukraine when they were 15 months and 18 months old. It turned out both of them had pretty serious special needs.
At the same time that I was separating from my husband, we were charged with abuse and neglect and the State took the kids away. Stuff had happened that shouldn’t have happened. I wasn’t a strong person. The best thing was that they took my kids and got me to Family Connections.
When I got there, nobody else had believed I’d ever get my kids back. But I never missed a meeting and I learned to trust the counselors. They helped me learn things about myself. Every baby step of progress I made, they were there to cheer me on. They gave me my strength back.
I learned you have to take care of yourself first before you can take care of your kids. Now, for the first time, I’m really enjoying life and enjoying my kids. I’m capable of taking care of them in a calm way, even though they have very special needs.
I have great family and friends. And I have Family Connections. When I have a bad day, I talk to my supports and I just keep climbing up the hill. There’s not a day goes by that I don’t remember what it was like when I didn’t have my kids. So whatever I have to do to help them, I just do it. And the bottom line is, we’re together. And as long as we keep talking to each other and trusting each other, there’s nothing we can’t accomplish.”
—Reunity House: Therapeutic Supervised Visitation and Family Reunification
“When I came to Family Connections, I hadn’t had a job in 2 years. I had no driver’s license. I had family problems, anger issues, substance abuse issues. And most of all, I wasn’t taking care of my kids.
In the Strong Fathers program, I learned about my weaknesses – no motivation, never getting things done. They taught me about setting goals and I found I could set goals and do things one by one. I started getting things done and it made me feel good about myself.
Before, I didn’t want other people to tell me what to do. But my counselor made me believe I could change. He’s my inspiration. He helped me with my anger, so now I catch myself before it happens. I let things slide off my back.
He also connected me to a job. And most of all, he taught me patience with my children.
I’ve been clean for a year now. I got my license, got a job, got a car. And I got joint custody of my children. I have confidence in myself now.
I had to do it for my children. They’re my motivation and my strength. I’ve graduated from Strong Fathers but I still go in to help the other men. I get support and direction and structure. Every time I go there, I learn something.
People say I’m a role model now. But I don’t see myself as a role model. I’m just a man, trying to take care of his kids.”
—Strong Fathers: Substance abuse treatment and parenting skills training.
“I was 18 and pregnant and had no place to live. I was about to drop out of school and take the easy way out.
The people at Family Connections’ Loft helped me see I didn’t have to drop out. They talked to my teachers. They took me to my doctors appointments. They helped me find a place to live and came to my house.
At The Loft I realized that there are people who will help you. I found out what I wanted and I found out that you have to work hard. Because if you do, you can reach your goals. At first, I felt like I couldn’t fit in – going to school when I was pregnant – but I stuck it out. And I got my diploma.
Now I’m working two jobs, I have my own apartment, and I’m on the Dean’s List at Essex County College. Family Connections was there whenever and whatever I needed. And they still visit me.
If you have a baby, you need to better yourself so you can take care of her. And when you have a good job and you’re taking care of yourself and your child, that’s the best feeling ever.”
—The Loft, School-based services at Columbia High School, South Orange & Maplewood
All names have been changed and stock photography is used to protect the privacy of individuals.