Six Questions on Family-Centered Practice With Alex Barkley in Columbus

Posted March 5, 2018
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog fcccohio 2018

As part of its Fam­i­ly-Cen­tered Com­mu­ni­ty Change work, the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion is part­ner­ing with com­mu­ni­ty devel­op­ment ini­tia­tives in three cities — Buf­fa­lo, Colum­bus and San Anto­nio — to inte­grate dis­con­nect­ed ser­vices for kids and adults. With an end goal of strength­en­ing fam­i­lies, this approach focus­es on enhanc­ing both the qual­i­ty of schools for chil­dren as well as job and par­ent­ing skills for adults.

In a new blog post series, Casey explores what Fam­i­ly-Cen­tered Com­mu­ni­ty Change looks like to the orga­ni­za­tions involved. This entry shares the per­spec­tive of Alex Barkley, who serves as the col­lab­o­ra­tions man­ag­er at Com­mu­ni­ty Prop­er­ties of Ohio (CPO) Man­age­ment Ser­vices in Colum­bus. Read our inter­views with prac­ti­tion­ers in Buf­fa­lo and San Anto­nio.

Casey: What does fam­i­ly-cen­tered prac­tice mean to you?

Alex Barkley: Fam­i­ly-cen­tered prac­tice means focus­ing on healthy devel­op­ment, growth and edu­ca­tion for chil­dren, as well as ser­vices that con­cen­trate on par­ent­ing, job skills and edu­ca­tion for adults. It means empha­siz­ing the need to serve chil­dren and their care­givers at the same time to help both suc­ceed and break the cycle of gen­er­a­tional pover­ty. It also means meet­ing fam­i­lies where they are in terms of their readi­ness to make changes in their lives.

Casey: How has your view of this work evolved over time?

Barkley: As providers, we used to cre­ate pro­grams for spe­cif­ic needs and then recruit fam­i­lies to par­tic­i­pate in our pro­grams. Being fam­i­ly focused shifts the per­spec­tive, start­ing with the family’s needs and goals and get­ting them con­nect­ed to the right resource or pro­gram to do so.

Casey: What val­ues dri­ve this work?

Barkley: We have sev­er­al — many of which are inspired by the work of the North­side Achieve­ment Zone in Min­neapo­lis — but here are three that top our list:

  1. Rela­tion­ships are the work — both with fam­i­lies and part­ner organizations.
  2. We are dri­ven by data. We track the progress of each child toward kinder­garten readi­ness, grade-lev­el achieve­ment and eco­nom­ic self-suf­fi­cien­cy. If we are not effec­tive, we will revise our plans until we get it right. CPO Impact part­ners work togeth­er to build effec­tive, evi­dence-based solu­tions posi­tioned to work.
  3. We val­ue diver­si­ty and equi­ty. The rich diver­si­ty of our com­mu­ni­ty is an asset to be woven into our process­es as well as sys­tems of sup­port and ser­vice. Our staff and part­ners attempt to embrace cul­tur­al respon­sive­ness with­in our work.

Casey: What are the ben­e­fits of a fam­i­ly-cen­tered approach?

Barkley: As orga­ni­za­tions sup­port­ing the com­mu­ni­ty, we can be more rel­e­vant to a family’s goals and needs and take a more holis­tic approach. Also with orga­ni­za­tions coor­di­nat­ing and inte­grat­ing ser­vices, we can reduce the amount of places in the com­mu­ni­ty a fam­i­ly needs to go to apply and receive resources.

Casey: What is one com­mon mis­con­cep­tion that peo­ple have about fam­i­ly-cen­tered practice?

Barkley: Peo­ple often think col­lab­o­rat­ing across orga­ni­za­tions is easy. Our expe­ri­ence is that col­lab­o­ra­tion takes time and resources. There needs to be some­one in a pro­fes­sion­al role to dri­ve the agen­da for part­ner­ships and col­lec­tive work. Oth­er­wise, orga­ni­za­tions tend to go back to their indi­vid­ual agency goals.

Casey: What is one piece of advice you have for oth­ers who are look­ing to adopt a fam­i­ly-cen­tered practice?

Barkley: Start with ask­ing fam­i­lies what they want to achieve for themselves.

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