From the Start: 'r kids Family Center

'r kids Family Center has been going strong for more than two decades and The Foundation has been there from the start.

'r kids Family Center's annual outing at Lighthouse Park. Photo Kathleen Cei

In 1996, on a cold Sunday in March, thirty-six concerned residents and service providers gathered at the home of Randi Rubin and Sergio Rodriguez to identify how they could fill the void in services for children in foster care and their parents. The problem? Families who had had their children removed by the Department of Children and Families (DCF) had less than a 50/50 chance of reunifying; in part due to issues of substance abuse, domestic violence, unmet mental health needs and parents' own histories with the child welfare system. As a result, children were residing in foster care for years on end.

Sergio and Randi had come from strong, intact families, and were motivated to see children have what they believed was their birthright — a permanent, stable family to call their own. The group agreed it was time to stabilize the lives of children in the DCF system; whether through reunification, transfer of guardianship or adoption.

After 3 years of successful racquetball fundraisers, Sergio and Randi approached The Community Foundation and secured their first $3,500 to assist them with grant writing. Today, the 'r kids Family Center occupies its debt-free, 4,300-square-foot facility at 45 Dixwell Avenue, has served more than 2,000 children and 1,800 parents, and has a reunification rate always exceeding 89 percent. Their mission is to achieve permanency, safety and stability for vulnerable children and their families; their tag line — With each child, the world begins anew (Midrash) — embodies their mission.

Actively engaged with its Dixwell community and hosting activities and events for both the community and their families, the 'r kids Board and staff are passionate about the well-being of children and their families and the impact of strong families on a healthy New Haven. Executive Director Randi Rubin Rodriguez explains, "Our parents love their children. Often it's a matter of them not knowing how to raise and protect them. We are here to assist them be the best they can be."

'r kids Family Center has been going strong for over two decades and was recently awarded $1.7 million by the State Bond Commission to expand the Family Center for more services, including an infant toddler family trauma center, an after-school center and adoption/ mental health services. With a goal of raising another $2 million for the expansion, Ms. Rodriguez is confident they will make it.

The success of 'r kids is in its ability to reach out, respectfully engage and support all parts of the family — children, and birth parents, foster and adoptive parents. As one father gratefully acknowledges, he has become "a more nurturing and patient parent," because of the 'r kids Family Center.

Did you know?

November is National Adoption Month. On any given day in Connecticut, there are more than 4,000 children in foster care, many of whom are in need of permanent homes. Source: AdoptUSkids

This article is part of a series of stories celebrating The Community Foundation's 90th Anniversary.