We chose to learn about, evaluate and present the Utah Family Center. The goals of this paper are; to explain the logistics of the program, to tie together what we learned with Epstein’s Framework, to describe the climate and those who typically utilize the center, and include some final concluding thoughts about the center. As a group, we referred to the Utah Family Center website, we visited and walked thru the center, and we talked to great lengths with the personnel. We were able to take pamphlets and we took digital pictures of the center to utilize in our group presentation.
We worked together to write this report about the Utah Family Center. The Utah Family Center is located at 5192 Greenpine Drive (460 West) in Salt Lake City, Utah in the 84123 zip code. The telephone number is (801) 266-6166. The hours and days of operation are 9:00AM until 4:00PM Monday thru Friday. When special classes are offered, they are usually on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 6:30PM until 8:30PM. When one particular class is offered, it is on Saturdays.
Their website is www. utahfamilycenter. org, and their e-mail address is [email protected] g. The Utah Family Center started small but increased in size once they received grant funding six years ago, and with the help of the PTA and the Utah Department of Education. They share office space with the Utah PTA Headquarters. This particular location is the statewide administrative center, and there are different branches of the Utah Family Center that they refer to as satellite centers. There are nine satellite centers, and they are located in Logan, Price, Kaysville, Monument Valley, downtown Salt Lake City, Tooele, Provo, St. George, and Ogden, Utah.
The satellite centers range in size depending on the area they are in, as well as the times they are open. The statewide administrative center is equipped with a large boardroom upstairs (seats 40) and a small one downstairs (seats about 12). The staffing consists of the Director, Barbara Smith, her secretary, a financial advisor, a counselor, other assistants, workshop teachers, and numerous PAT (Parents as Teachers). The Director manages the center. The classes are directed by nationally certified trainers.
The Utah Family Center is funded through repeated PIRC (Parent Information & Resource Centers) grants from the United States Department of Education Office of Innovation & Improvement. A PIRC grant is based on helping low performing schools that struggle, with the “No Child Left Behind” concept a main focus. The center has to keep applying for the grant every four years. Currently, they are on year two of their existing grant. The population served at the Utah Family Center includes parents who have been mandated by the State of Utah to use the center to take parenting classes.
However, they do have other interested people who use the center as a means to learn as much as possible about parenting or a certain subject. The Utah Family Center is not restricted to anyone; everyone is free to utilize their services. We learned from our discussions from the staff that in reality, mostly low income mothers use the center (about 75%). However, about 25% of the participants are parents that would be of middle or upper class that use the center as a resourceful means to learn about parenting. The people who enroll in the classes are usually the ones required by court, about 75%.
The staff noted that sometimes they are really busy and sometimes they are very slow. The goal and informal mission statement of the Utah Family Center, as listed on their website, is:”To strengthen partnerships among family, school, and community to address the whole child. Here you will find information and resources to enrich the family environment, promote academic success, raise healthy children and strengthen communities. “The purpose of the center (as listed on their website), is to strengthen those partnerships in order to address the whole child.
They also want to increase parents’ knowledge of and confidence in child-rearing activities such as teaching and nurturing their children from ages 0-18. They provide access to information, resources, research, and learning opportunities that will support families. The center carries out its mission (as listed on their website) by the following resources and activities: parent and family lending libraries, community activities and events, family access to technology and information, seminars, workshops and forums, internet site resources, numerous links and tips, referrals, and translator services.
They are also available by phone for services. Their locations are equipped with books and videos, computers, children’s toys and meeting space. The center also focuses on the following items (as listed on their website): encourage and implement meaningful parent and family involvement, support academic success for all children, facilitate family literacy, honor diversity and aim for equity, promote safe and drug-free environments and unite and build networks that provide services and support to families.
There is a $25. donation to attend any special workshops or classes at the Utah Family Center. However, if someone cannot afford this, the fee will be waived. Attendants of seminars receive certifications. The types of classes offered include marriage preparation classes, types of intelligence classes, development of the brain, parenting classes and other. People can also check out any books and other materials (including videos and brochures) for free. The books and other materials are checked out for two weeks, but standard late fees are not applied.
The Utah Family Center is also a home for a childcare referral service. For $30. 00 a year, members are able to access a lending library that is housed at the center. This service attracts mostly home-based daycares. The library includes numerous activities and resources. The Utah Family Center correlates greatly with Epstein’s theory of overlapping spheres. Currently, the Utah Family Center incorporates all three spheres and has an especially large overlap in the school and community spheres and the community and family spheres.
The area which the Utah Family Center is lacking the most in is the interaction of the family and school and spheres. However, the dynamics of the three spheres are always changing, because the center’s primary focus is always changing. The center’s focus is determined by the government when the center’s grant is renewed every four years. The school and community spheres have a large overlap due to the direct influence the Parent Teacher Association has on the center. The Utah Family Center is a community organization which was created by the Utah State PTA.
The center works directly under the PTA to enhance the home, school, and community partnerships. This relationship is the primary relationship that influences the overlap in the school and community spheres. The community and family spheres have the greatest overlap of the three. This is due to the vast amount of information and resources available to families from the center. As mentioned previously, the center offers parenting workshops, brochures, and the PAT (Parents as Teachers) program.
PAT is an intervention program primarily for low income mothers that are either pregnant or have young children. PAT teaches these mothers that they are their child’s primary and most important teacher. A certified trainer visits the homes of these women and teaches them how to be teachers and how to create learning tools for their child(ren) without spending a lot of money, if any at all. The program advertises to mothers and they consequently call in for help. The last and most poorly utilized overlap is that of the family and school spheres.
Although there is some overlap, it is primarily due to the indirect influence the PTA has on the families. The center is focused on giving families the resources needed to best prepare their children to enter into school, however, when the child actually becomes school aged, the resources drop off greatly for the families. The program seems to focus mostly on a sequential philosophy, but partly a shared one as well. The environment allocated for the children is one that would attract preschool children.
The PAT group that works in the center is specifically focused on early childhood training for children before they start school. On the other hand, there is still assistance for children and their parents all the way thru high school, but it seems more limited. Although the family and school spheres are lacking in overlap, many examples of Epstein’s six types of involvement can still be found throughout the center. Of the six types, the most obvious and most utilized are: collaborating with the community, basic responsibilities of families and learning at home.
The remaining three types of involvement, communication, volunteering and decision-making, are incorporated but not to such a great extent. We feel the decision-making and volunteering seem to be influenced primarily by the PTA only, since the PTA and Utah Family Center work so closely together. Communication is very limited and we conclude this is because there just hasn’t been focus put on expanding it. We feel the Director of the Utah Family Center has put more emphasis on the three types that are more substantial.