By Renee Summers, Telegram Newspaper, Published Dec. 27, 2018
Being a parent is a full-time job. It’s not an easy one, and these days there are many who simply walk away from the responsibility. But take heart; there are those who are up to the challenge. Just ask Starfish Family Service’s Susan Powers.
Starfish Family Services is a non-profit agency which has been helping parents and families since 1963. Its mission states, “Strengthening families to create brighter futures for children.” Powers works out of the agency’s Dearborn Offices and manages and organizes The Parenthood Program, aimed at pregnant and parenting teenagers. Powers admits that she herself was a teen mom years ago and that it wasn’t easy. “I talk from experience, you know, I’ve been there, I know the challenges that you face,” she says. Powers uses her experience to reach other young girls (and yes, a few boys), enabling them to see that parenthood can be very fulfilling. “I felt like I could have an impact,” she adds.
Starfish Family Services works with the Michigan Adolescent Pregnancy and Parenting Program (MI-APP), a program funded by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS). Through their partnership, Starfish and MI-APP seek to teach teen parents basic child care and development and how to interact with their baby. Numerous methods and paths are used to achieve this goal, including utilizing resources already available within the community.
The Parenting Program is voluntary, open to anyone 20 years and younger, and free of cost. Powers performs engagement and outreach with high schools, teen clinics, libraries and community centers. Some pregnant teens and teen parents are referred to Starfish via other social agencies or case workers with state aid agencies.
Each case is different and the program is personalized to suit what each participant needs. “We try to help them finish growing up,” Powers says. “These are still kids. They’re teenagers-but they’re parents. ”
A case manager meets with each client a minimum of twice a month, either at home or at school. They help teen parents identify basic short-term goals, such as passing a math test in school, and attain them. This provides confidence to keep striving. The focus can also be on finishing high school, applying for community college, obtaining a driver’s license or state ID, finding employment, or managing a weekly budget. These are skills most people learn as young adults. But for a teen parent, the skills become a life necessity and acquiring them becomes urgent.
The Parenthood Program also assists with transportation issues, which can be a barrier to anyone striving for a better life. “We want to get them from where they are to where they need to be in order to be productive adults,” says Powers. Many of the teen parents lack any sort of support system. The program aims to fill that void through group meetings that engage young girls with other teen parents while focusing on a particular topic such as financial organization, job hunting and resume writing, and relationships. Sometimes, they just need to talk, and talking and listening can help teen parents realize they are not alone.
But it’s not all seriousness and work. Powers often takes a small group of teens and their babies to local libraries to participate in story hours. Sometimes they visit a local park, and this past summer, a group went to the Detroit Zoo. The goal is to get the teens to realize the resources available to them in their communities, and take the initiative to access those resources. Powers says she finds it extremely rewarding to see teen parents interact with their babies in positive ways, trying to be the best parents they can. The biggest challenge, she says, is getting teen dads involved in their babies’ lives.
Four key areas Powers says the program focuses on are education and career success, adult relationship support, teen parent and child health, and family stability. The program is working; in 2017, they celebrated seven high school graduates, four of whom are still clients of The Parenthood Program. Some have found employment while others have gone on to higher education.
For more information on Starfish Family Services and The Parenthood Program, visit http://www.starfishfamilyservices.org. or call 734-756-1860. Susan Powers can be reached at email@example.com.
About the program
Data is key to helping nonprofits measure and communicate their impact and to making strategic decisions about where best to invest scarce resources. But it’s not always easy to figure out how to measure intangible things like a child’s well-being, overall development and likelihood of succeeding in college. The co-winners of the 2018 Best-Managed Nonprofit contest are doing exactly that.
This year, judges chose to lift up both a larger-budget nonprofit and a smaller nonprofit for the steps they are taking to get their arms around their data and use it in meaningful ways to better meet their missions.
Midnight Golf has launched two new data systems over the past year. One is aimed at keeping track of the growing number of high school seniors and college students it’s supporting. The other helps track its donors and their interests, while also providing a source of internship possibilities for the students it serves. Starfish Family Services is bringing data from over 20 disparate systems into a single system that will provide a more complete view of all of the programs a child or family it serves is receiving, along with indicators of how those clients are doing overall.
Starfish Family Services building master record system to consolidate client data
- It’s committed $2 million, 3-5 years to develop and roll out the new system
- Will eliminate duplication, provide holistic view of children and family success
- Expected to produce $2.5 million in cost savings, new revenue
One of Starfish Family Services’ core strengths is its ability to serve children and families through a variety of early childhood, children’s mental health and family support programs.
But that same breadth of service has also been its Achilles’ heel.
Information on the clients in each of its programs lives in different, siloed systems. That creates stress and frustration for parents who are asked to provide the same information over and over again. And it prevents Starfish staff from linking things like a young child’s behavioral issues in the classroom with stress happening at home due to a pending foreclosure, something communicated to the agency by the child’s mom through a separate Starfish program.
“We end up with 20 different data systems we’re putting information in” on who’s served and their outcomes, President and CEO Ann Kalass said.
“If we’re looking at the whole child … we want to be able to see everything (they) are getting from us in early childhood, in Head Start and mental health services,” she said. “We may have a hypothesis that a combination of programs creates better outcomes … but we can’t prove it until the data is linked.”
Starfish has set out to tackle the complex issue by bringing data from all of the disparate systems into a single, master record system that will enable it to see all of the programs a child or family is receiving through the agency, success indicators across them and family relationships. That, in turn, will enable it to better identify causative factors and gaps in service.
It’s committed $2 million and three to five years to develop and roll out the new, child and family master record system, a data warehouse that will enable it to report out data to funders and dashboards to track sets of data.
Starfish, which is operating on a $46 million budget for fiscal 2019, is funding the costs of the new system from its reserves and unrestricted operating funds.
It expects to more than recoup its investment by the time it’s fully rolled out the new system in 2022.
“We see this as an investment in something we have to do in order to achieve our mission and our family-centric view,” Kalass said.
“As a sector, to have the impact we want, we need capacity investments that make our programs work.”
Getting data in line
First and foremost, the goal with the new, master record system is to improve services to families and to make it easier for staff to provide those services, said Kirsten Mack, director of value acceleration.
Starfish has contracted with Boulder, Colorado-based Global Data Strategy Ltd. to develop the new child master record system.
It’s spent the past year and a half establishing data governance to ensure all data entered across the nonprofit and its programs will be consistent. That includes everything from who will enter data and be able to access data to how it will be structured, Mack said. For example, it might mean designating someone’s race as “white,” for example, vs. “Caucasian,” or using numerical birthdates rather than spelling out months so that the system can read all data.
Starfish is also working to establish an organizationwide data warehouse where it can report out on all of the data from the disparate systems. All of the data from the master record system gets put into the warehouse. “That’s how we can see holistic data … and report out on it,” Mack said.
The agency has entered its first set of data, behavioral health information, into the data warehouse and is producing weekly updates that track completion of required documentation for clients or progress toward targets for clients through “dashboards” or visual representations of data that Mack and her team liken to a car’s instrument panel.
The gas gauge, for example, might show progress toward an enrollment target for the number of children in an early childhood education program on a dashboard, she said. Staff are notified of weekly dashboard updates by email and can log into the system to access the latest progress reports.
Data governance and the data warehouse will form the foundation for establishing the child and family master record.
“Our plan is by this time next year to have the master record system launched,” Mack said.
From that point, it’s expected to take another one to three years to be fully implemented where data is entered into the master system and pushed out to the other funder systems for reporting purposes.
Return on investment
Just a year and a half in to development of the new system, Starfish is already seeing cost savings as it changes how it manages data. The automation of some data management led to the elimination of one full-time position that’s expected to save about $100,000 a year, Kalass said.
More efficient data entry is also freeing staff up to spend more time working with clients, and that’s increased billable revenue, Mack said. And the weekly dashboard updates on required behavioral health documentation has increased the number of claims paid, which is starting to produce more revenue on that front.
By the time the new system is fully online in 2022, cost savings and increased revenue from the more efficient system are projected to add up to $2.5 million, Mack said.
Rochelle Riley, Detroit Free Press Published 6:00 a.m. ET Oct. 14, 2018
Dr. Maria Muzik, an Associate Professor in the University of Michigan’s Department of Psychiatry, left, chats with Mary Ludtke from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018 at the opening of the new Starfish Partnering with Parents Center in Dearborn. (Photo: Rochelle Riley, Detroit Free Press)
Imagine being the parent of a child whose needs are many and may include physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and psychological counseling to deal with trauma.
Now imagine that you, the parent of that child, must take your child to different places all over the county for each of those services, whether you have the transportation, time off work — or money to make it happen.
Now imagine that you are that child. And you’re 5 years old. And you to go to all of those places while also going to school.
If you can’t feel the sheer frustration and pain of that or are unmoved by any child or family having to endure that, then you should skip this column. You should just keep ignoring that, by ignoring the plight of children in need, we are ignoring the potential of children who could be future leaders of industry, politics, health or community.
Instead, we make them future burdens.
But if you understand that Michigan’s future depends on how well we empower and prepare all of our children, then we have something to celebrate: that a community agency that serves hundreds of children is trying something different.
Starfish Family Services, which announced last year its intent to focus more on helping children through trauma, has created that rare center that allows families to get all their services in one place. Starfish isn’t the first, but it is helping to lead the way in changing how family service agencies work. Starfish, which works with hundreds of families and children a year, has consolidated the services they offered in four different places all in one space for children up to age 6 at the new Partnering with Parents Center in Dearborn.
The 12,500-square-foot space has applied behavior analysis rooms for children who have autism, group therapy rooms, sensory rooms for occupational and physical therapy, a speech therapy room and a couple of outpatient therapy rooms.
The center, a one-stop shop for families, is creating a neighborhood of services and making a family of those who need help and those who give it.
“We had a lot of focus groups with families and a lot of what we were hearing was that they were tired of having to go four, five sometimes six, locations to get the services they needed for their children, Gillian Ogilvie, manager of maternal and early childhood services at Starfish, said in an interview. She will manage day-to-day operations at the center.
“We had kids who had such diverse needs, and they had providers all over the county, in multiple buildings. And our families were saying how challenging that was, traveling and building relationships with different centers. So we wondered how we could we pull all the services we provide into one location, a professional home for parents to go to. This was a huge wake-up call for us.”
It should be a huge wake-up call for all agencies working with children and families. We have to stop making it so hard for children and families to get help.
We have to stop pretending that trauma doesn’t affect how children feel in a classroom, at a camp, on a stage.
What Starfish is doing is creating a family of care to improve the lives of families. And they are doing it at a time when the tensions and rancor and trauma of the times, whether it is kids experiencing or seeing violence to a general increase in anger across our communities.
The reason I’m learning so much about Starfish is because the organization is my partner on a months-long project looking at how trauma and toxic environments affect how children learn.
That means spending time with the 75 staff members in their new Dearborn space in The Atrium, a mirrored building that, ironically, allows those entering to see themselves coming and going.
The goal is to make sure those going see themselves more clearly and feel more prepared to do great things.
“… We see kids who are living with toxic stress,” Ogilvie said. “That is not an anomaly among people. We don’t make assumptions that families are living in trauma, but typically they experience trauma whether it’s the parent or child. We make sure families have access to relationship-based services. Every service we provide has some kind of parent component or building better relationships between parent and child to boost resilience from any kind of traumatic event.
“We want to make sure each child as a secure attachment relationship in their lives,” she said. “And parents are more likely to accept help if all the help is in one place and they’re familiar with the staff. They don’t want to hear, ‘We want to refer you to this establishment down the road. We don’t know how you’ll get there and don’t know where you’ll park and you won’t know the staff, but….’”
The center, which will serve 750 children and families, had its open house on Wednesday, on World Mental Health Day, which since 1992, has existed to help remove the stigma of mental illness.
If the world can do it, then individual communities must remove the stigma, work together to give children what they need to all start on a level playing field and start building leaders rather than lingerers, bright stars rather than those to whom we point and wonder what might have been.
Contact Rochelle Riley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @rochelleriley.
Organizations gathered at the Marygrove College campus today to announce a new cradle-to-career educational partnership including a state-of-the-art early childhood education center, a new K-12 school and the introduction of an innovative teacher education training modeled after hospital residency programs.
The P-20 Partnership – one of the first in the nation – is backed with a $50 million commitment from The Kresge Foundation, marking the largest philanthropic investment in history into a Detroit neighborhood. The investment places education at the center of community revitalization efforts in the Livernois-McNichols district in northwest Detroit.
In addition to construction of a new early childhood education center, the Kresge commitment will renovate the former Bates Academy (originally Immaculata High School) on the Marygrove campus to house the K-12 school and will renovate space within the college’s Liberal Arts Building for student and faculty use.
This landmark cradle-to-career educational campus – which will offer pre-K through graduate school studies with wrap-around services and community programs – is being jointly developed through a partnership including Kresge, the University of Michigan School of Education (U-M SOE), Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD), the Marygrove Conservancy, Marygrove College, Starfish Family Services, IFF and the Detroit Collaborative Design Center of the University of Detroit Mercy.
At full capacity, the new state-of-the-art early childhood education center (operated by Starfish) and the K-12 school (operated by DPSCD) are projected to serve more than 1,000 Detroit children and their families, primarily focused on the surrounding neighborhoods in the Livernois-McNichols district.
The campus will also offer degree and professional certifications for teacher education students of the U-M SOE and graduate students of Marygrove College, respectively. A new teacher “residency program,” offered by U-M SOE will place undergraduate and graduate student teachers at the DPSCD school. When they complete their degrees, they will work at the school as supervised resident teachers in an innovative program modeled after the way doctors are trained.
The first phase of the campus will include a ninth-grade pilot program to open in 2019, followed by the opening of the early childhood education center and kindergarten in fall 2020. Successive grades will be added each year, and by 2029, all grades will be offered, alongside undergraduate and graduate studies and professional development courses and certifications.
“Community development isn’t just happening in downtown and Midtown, and it isn’t just about bricks and mortar,” said Kresge President and CEO Rip Rapson. “This is community development that invests in people, in the social fabric that makes neighborhoods unique. That’s what the future of this campus represents.”
Mayor applauds leaders for investing in Detroit neighborhoods
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan joined leaders from each of the partnering organizations for the public announcement, where they outlined their collaborative vision for the campus. The group shared how they will engage the community to bring the vision to life, as well as what this investment means for the surrounding Livernois-McNichols district and the city of Detroit’s continued revitalization.
The P-20 campus announcement comes at a significant time for the northwest Detroit community, following major municipal and philanthropic commitments to the area in recent years. It also follows the announcement last year by the 90-year-old Marygrove College that it would cease its undergraduate offerings due to burgeoning debt and falling enrollment.
Leading up to and through that decision, The Kresge Foundation, a long-time supporter of Marygrove College, invested $16 million to help stabilize it, restructure debt, finance academic and campus operations, cushion faculty, staff and student transitions and support the college’s shift to graduate-level education. Kresge then partnered with the college’s founders and sponsors – the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) – to create the Marygrove Conservancy to steward the campus and its mission. The conservancy immediately began to explore partnerships that could preserve the campus and its historic role as an educational anchor in the city.
“Not long ago, we were faced with the prospect of this incredible campus going dark, which would have been a terrible setback to the revitalization that is taking place in this area of our city,” said Mayor Duggan. “Instead, today we are celebrating a new beginning and a bright future at Marygrove, thanks to The Kresge Foundation, DPSCD, the University of Michigan and all the partners in this effort. We owe them all a great deal of appreciation for recognizing the importance this campus has to our city and to the community.”
Duggan praised the P-20 partnership as an example of how the public and private sectors are coming together to provide outstanding educational options for Detroit families.
“A high-quality educational system – beginning with early childhood education – is essential to keeping the families in the city here and for attracting new families.”
Kresge invites partners to support P-20 model
The P-20 campus at Marygrove College is a new approach to economic development centered on educating children and will serve as a model for urban communities around the country.
Following Marygrove College’s restructuring, the foundation supported the leadership of Marygrove College; the school’s founders and sponsors, the IHM Sisters; and the newly formed Marygrove Conservancy on the possibility of a consortium of educational institutions coming together to create a P-20 campus model. Similar campuses exist around the country – the Penn Alexander School in Pennsylvania, for example – but none involve early childhood services through graduate level education housed on one campus.
Rapson said that the foundation’s $50 million investment in the campus and its work to help engage serious partners in the P-20 concept is on par with lead funding commitments made previously by the foundation to the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy, the revitalization of Midtown, in the creation of M-1 RAIL, and in the “Grand Bargain,” which helped bring Detroit out of municipal bankruptcy in 2014.
“Kresge is extremely proud to announce a partnership that puts education at the center of all other revitalization work being done in this community,” said Rapson. “We’re pleased to collaborate with all of our community partners who have come together to create a new model of neighborhood revitalization centered around investment in education right here in the heart of northwest Detroit.”
“We believe this community is among the most promising in the city today. With this new P-20 concept, it will become one of the most promising in the country,” Rapson said. “This campus represents a diverse group of stakeholders, neighbors, faith-based groups, and educators who all believe in the future of this neighborhood.”
Early childhood education center
Echoing the importance of providing a great start for the city’s youngest learners, the P-20 partners announced they will break ground on an early childhood education center on the Marygrove campus in 2019 and open the center the following year.
Still in the predevelopment phase and seeking community input, Starfish, DPSCD and the U-M SOE and Marygrove College will codesign the program’s curriculum. The partners outlined their vision for a facility designed to provide full-day, full-year early childhood education services to children ages birth through 5, catered to the whole child and family.
Starfish has a rich history in the city, serving thousands of metro Detroit children for 55 years.
“It’s essential to support children from birth through higher education,” said Starfish Family Services CEO Ann Kalass. “The P-20 campus will be an opportunity to show how Detroit is putting young children and families first. Having the opportunity to integrate early childhood learning into a long-term higher education and career path with the DPS Community District and the University of Michigan’s School of Education is remarkable. We’re excited to partner with all of these world-class institutions to create a model that guarantees the best possible educational outcomes for Detroit’s children.”
Led by the Detroit Collaborative Design Center with the support of IFF, existing early childhood education providers in the vicinity are being engaged to collectively develop a set of whole-child and whole-family support principles to envision the early childhood center as a resource for families and other early childhood centers throughout the surrounding area.
K-12 model learning programs
Following the phase-one ninth grade class initiation in 2019, DPSCD plans to open a kindergarten and 10th grade class in 2020, followed by the addition of another primary and secondary class annually. By 2029, all primary and high school grade classrooms will be staffed and filled; neighborhood families will have priority enrollment.
DPSCD and U-M SOE are jointly developing the K-8 and 9-12 curriculum for the schools that DPSCD will operate. Kresge will fund renovations and updates of the district’s former Bates Academy school building, on the southeast corner of the campus, to house the majority of the 1,000 primary and secondary students.
“The cradle to college model demonstrates that DPSCD can simultaneously rebuild the district and introduce innovation,” said Dr. Nikolai P. Vitti, superintendent. “The magnitude of this partnership is priceless in that it expands the city’s portfolio of high-demand, unique traditional public school options and develops a much-needed teacher pipeline with one of the top universities in the country.”
Vitti added the teacher-training component has the potential to attract college students to the teaching profession, retain teachers who otherwise leave the profession in large numbers and improve enrollment.
“The School Board and I have been laser-focused on restoring the credibility of traditional public school education so Detroit residents can send their children to the school in their neighborhood,” he said. “To achieve this, we need to establish a district that retains its best teachers and develops the next generation of dedicated teachers while supporting them in the best facilities, so each child receives a high-quality education. Detroit cannot restore its potential without a high-functioning traditional education system. Investments and partnerships such as these signal that DPSCD is on the rise and will, once again, be the preferred educational choice of its residents.”
The P-20 model has the potential to help the entire DPSCD system as it aligns with the district’s core goals of improving enrollment; improving student achievement, attendance, test scores, graduation rates and college-completion; and teacher development, retention and attraction.
“This school will not be isolated from the rest of the DPSCD system,” Vitti added. “The innovations developed here will be shared across the system for the betterment of the entire district.”
Cutting-edge U-M teacher training
University of Michigan President Dr. Mark Schlissel and U-M SOE Dean Dr. Elizabeth Moje outlined their vision for a teacher training school on the Marygrove campus that will be modeled after medical teaching residencies.
According to Moje, after completing teaching education studies, new teachers will remain alongside veteran educators in primary and secondary classrooms for three additional years to continue their training while helping newer student teachers learn the profession.
“For too long, universities have been largely separated from the pre-K to 12 settings for which they are educating new professionals,” Moje said. “This is an opportunity for the School of Education to not only provide impactful teacher training, but to also create programs that teach children using evidence-based instructional practices carried out by exceptional leaders. We’re excited to develop teachers who are prepared to serve their students in any and every learning environment, and to create a model for preparation that honors the complex work of teaching and the need for strong communities of practice.”
The innovative approach through the P-20 model will allow U-M, and other higher education institutions across the country that may replicate this concept, to improve its own practice while contributing to primary and secondary educational settings
Other U-M schools and colleges will join the collaboration as the school and wrap-around services develop. Early partners include: College of Engineering; Stephen M. Ross School of Business; A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning; School of Social Work; School of Nursing; and School of Dentistry.
“The University of Michigan was founded in Detroit in 1817, and we share a wonderful history and an equally significant future,” Schlissel said. “This new partnership is founded in our belief that a brighter future will emerge through the creation of different kinds of educational opportunities, and new knowledge, in ways that we could not do alone. It further builds on our School of Education’s longstanding partnerships in conducting research and working in concert with educators in Detroit.”
Marygrove College proud to continue educational legacy
Dr. Elizabeth Burns, president of Marygrove College – a college alumna who also attended kindergarten at Marygrove – shared her deep satisfaction that the college’s legacy as a teacher and social justice training center, combined with deep ties to the surrounding community, will continue.
“This innovative college has been dedicated to education for more than 90 years and will remain a site for education in the city of Detroit,” she said. “One of the college’s pillars is a commitment to remain an anchor institution in this Detroit neighborhood and an institutional leader in the city of Detroit. The P-20 model ensures we continue that mission. We’re excited for the future of this campus and the impact this model will have on the city of Detroit’s rebirth.”
Sister Jane Herb, IHM president and Marygrove Conservancy chair, also thanked each partner for their investment in Marygrove College, the Livernois-McNichols district and the children and families of northwest Detroit.
“Every program and partner on this campus has a single goal: educating children. We are all responsible and accountable for that result,” Herb said. “We all know Detroit is the place for innovation in education. As the city reinvests itself, we need to reinvent the way the city brings opportunities to its youngest residents.”
“This initiative is anchored in community development, but not by investing in just bricks and mortar, but investing in children,” she added. “We’re proud to be home to this national model for investing in children and teachers as a way to transform a neighborhood – right on the campus of Marygrove College.”
A community meeting will be held on October 15, 2018, 6:30-8:30 p.m., in the Marygrove College Main Dining Hall to gain input from local residents as the P-20 campus model is being developed. For more details, call 313-993-1037. Community members will have additional opportunities to engage in the planning process during existing block club meetings, existing community council and association meetings, and stakeholder group meetings as well as two additional community-wide meetings, dates to be announced.