A National Resource to Support Excellence in Community Action
Last Revised: Jan 26, 2009 - Initial Posting: Jul 30, 2004
Purpose

The Worcester Community Action Council, Inc. developed and continues to host the Worcester Community Connections Coalition to build neighborhood-based networks that support leadership development and parent advocacy in community planning activities and efforts to coordinate services.

Description

The Worcester Community Action Council, Inc. (WCAC) established the Worcester Community Connections Coalition (WCCC) to promote the involvement of low-income parents and families in public education, parent advocacy and child abuse prevention. Many organizations and programs have become more relevant and effective in meeting the needs of families through input from Community Connections.

Community Connections strengthens families by:

  • Coordinating resources already in the community
  • Bringing out the voices of residents in the planning for local resources
  • Ensuring that services meet the needs of the people
  • Helping parents to become more confident, competent and nurturing

WCCC Policies and Procedures ManualThe work of WCCC is guided by a Steering Committee as described in the WCCC Policies and Procedures ManualCommittee members include parents, social service agency and public school representatives and others.  At least 51 percent of the Steering Committee is comprised of neighborhood representatives.

Goals are prioritized to undertake activities that can be successful in order to encourage widespread involvement with Community Connections. Committees provide leadership with various Community Connections activities.  These have included:

  • Family Needs
  • Education
  • Annual Membership Meeting

A specific targeted outcome for Community Connections is to increase parent involvement with the public schools and other organizations such as the Housing Authority and Department of Social Services.  WCAC has also been successful in using Community Connections as a source of low-income Board members.

Staff positions for WCCC include a Community Connections Coordinator, a Parent Involvement Coordinator, and Family Advocates.  An emphasis is placed on recruiting Community Connections members from neighborhoods that have working community groups such as church groups, community organizations, neighborhood watch, etc.

Parent’s Guide to the Worcester Public School SystemExamples of activities carried out by Community Connections have included:

Preventing Family Violence: Community Engagement Makes the DifferenceCommunity Connections is funded by the Department of Social Services through the Family Preservation and Support Act.  The Family Violence Prevention Fund (FVPF) has recognized Community Connections as an effective approach to promote community engagement to prevent family violence.  In it’s report, Preventing Family Violence: Community Engagement Makes the Difference; FVPF identified various strengths and challenges of making services and institutions accountable to community needs:

  • This approach creates a powerful voice for social change, the voice of those who are directly affected by abuse.
  • It promotes empowerment and leadership development.
  • It engages institutions in constructive dialogue with community members about how cases are and should be handled.
  • A challenge is finding people within formal institutions or service-delivery systems who are willing and able to invest the time to change their own systems, particularly when on the surface, it often seems like these efforts will add to staff workloads.
  • There is also a danger of involving community members in a tokenistic manner, rather than truly incorporating them into the leadership structure and decision-making process.
  • Since social service systems have not always accepted community residents as leaders and collaborators, this approach runs the risk of not being supported by the systems they hope to change.
Outcomes

FY’08 Outcomes: Community Connections Coalition – 866 families were connected with critical community resources including food pantries, affordable housing, childcare, after-school programs, and providing coaching on how to access these services independently in the future.  Community Connections Coalition provided Parent Advocate assistance to 150 high-risk families either involved in or referred to the state’s child protective system – MA Department of Social Services by obtaining the community supports to prevent potential future out-of-home placement of the children and to reduce the need for continued state involvement.

Contact

Anne Bureau, Director, Worcester Community Connections Coalition
508.796.1411 ext. 418