Get to Know Family Focus

Learn how Family Focus helps nurture children by strengthening families. We help caregivers put the pieces of parenting together, one piece at a time.



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Success Stories

A.D. came to Illinois with her son, Javier. She did not speak English, making her feel out of place and lonely. She became a participant in Family Focus’s programing and drastically improved her life. A.D. learned English and gained parenting knowledge. She now has three daughters, all of whom have been a part of the Family Focus programming preparing them for pre-school and beyond.




  • I wanted to dance just like other girls did. But we didn't have the money and transporation for dance class. [Family Focus] helped me overcome this obstacle.

                            -Haide, Age 13


    I love ballet [but] the classes are too expensive for my family...and the program [at Family Focus] helped me to get a scholarship. I am more responsible and I put more effort into what I do.

                            -Juliana, Age 11

  • "[My dream] is for my sons to go to college, my daughter too, so they can have a better life.” Rivera looked at her newly-secured citizenship certificate. “It’s not too late for me either now that I have this,” Francisca Rivera

  • “I made a good choice in coming to the Family Focus program,” reflected Jamilla Chatman, “I feel better than what I did. I was failing, but now I’m doing a lot better!”

  • "Before the class, I didn't know walking, standing and leaning may help stimulate contractions, and that kneeling may relieve back pain and hemorrhoids. I'm glad I attended the Prenatal classes." - Antone Robinson, teen father

  •  "I was thankful my doula was at my birth. I thanked her for her services before she left the hospital".-- Gabrielle Young, teen mother


Annual Report for Fiscal Year 2015


Strategic Plan Executive Summary

From a single drop-in center in Evanston, Illinois, Family Focus now provides holistic family support services to over 20,000 individuals through programming, outreach, and crisis services.


Right From The Start Success Story

Right From The Start Success Story

When Humberto Campos and his wife Beatriz first came to Family Focus six years ago, they were recent immigrants, with no safety net and their first baby was on the way. Humberto worked two shifts at a local restaurant and their lack of English and education made it difficult to find help. Through our Rights From the Start program, we provided a Doula to help with the birth of their daughter Maggie, and later, home visits to ensure she was reaching her developmental milestones. While her parents attended our parenting classes, support groups and English classes, our early childhood specialists worked with Maggie, teaching her English, colors, words, how to share and interact with other children.  By the time Maggie, now six, entered school; she was more than ready for Kindergarten.

Since then, Humberto and Beatriz have both take English classes and have developed friendships through our center support groups and activities.  Humberto even took Zumba classes, dropping 40 pounds as a result.  Not only is he healthier, but he became a certified Zumba instructor to supplement their income.  Their second child Daniel also went through the program and is thriving thanks to donors like you!


First in Illinois

First in Illinois

On October 6, Family Focus’ entire senior leadership team  attended an all day training at Family Focus Evanston in partnership with the National  Network of Family Strengthening Networks. 

The purpose was to train all 37 senior staff members on how best to ensure family support standards are integrated into all of our work, allowing us to qualitatively and quantitatively measure our impact on families. 

Since our founder Bernice Weissbourd  is one of the originators of the Family Support movement, it was only natural that Family Focus be the first family support and resource center in Illinois to adopt these standards  and certify all senior staff. 

The training was led by Andrew Russo and Brenda Chesney,  Co-Chairs of the National Network of Family Strengthening Networks , pictured here with Family Focus CEO, Merri Ex.


Outstanding Volunteers

Outstanding Volunteers

Thanks to the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. James Gottlieb, our affiliate Family Network will reach even more families in need.  In September, the Gottliebs made a substantial gift to support the Right From The Start (RFTS) program and our participants in Lake County.  Not only will their kindness allow us to increase our impact this year, but will help build organizational capacity so we can serve more families in the future.

Donna Gottlieb is a bilingual volunteer in our Parent/Child Center’s Dual Language Program at the Family Network center.  In her role she has greeted children and soothed anxious parents for over fourteen years.  Her husband Jim told us that Donna frequently tells him how much joy and satisfaction she gets as a volunteer.  Jim went on to say,

“Donna and I have been anxious to make a special gift to an organization in our community that helps children and families.  We are very pleased to be able to make this gift to the Right From the Start Program”. 

Thank you Donna and Jim! We are so appreciative of your support and interest in our children, families and community.


Organizational Update


This letter is to let you know about the excitement summer brings to Family Focus.

  • Family Focus staff in our Aurora, Englewood, Evanston and Hermosa centers continue to work with families who have been involved with the Department of Children and Family Services. Our goal is to reunite children with families whenever possible, through education, training and coaching.  This past year, 97% of Family Focus families have been reunited compared to 70% in the state.
  • The City of Chicago has selected Family Focus to serve an additional 122 families with children 0-3 through our Englewood, Lawndale and Hermosa centers. Family Focus will partner with families and community resources to give children the best start in life and prevent delays that could follow them for many years.
  • Family Focus is a learning organization and we will partner with the National Standards of Family Support organization to integrate standards into all of our work to qualitatively and quantitatively measure our impact on families.  We will be the first family resource center in Illinois to adopt these standards.  Our first all-day training will be on October 6th.
  • We also are partnering with private funders, through our Spring Gala which honored the Steans Family.  Due to the efforts of the event’s chair, Mark Hoppe, CEO of Cole Taylor Bank, 17 new sponsors were inspired to join the Family Focus family, and a final total of $484,000 was raised.
  • Family Focus’ board of directors and staff are working diligently to create our next three-year strategic plan.   Board members are directly involved in interviewing foundation leaders, state and city officials and our staff to plan for Family Focus' future. The report will be completed at the end of the calendar year and we will share it with you.  If you have comments or suggestions that you would like included in our plan, please contact me at

My best wishes to you for a safe and happy fall.

Warm regards,

Merri Ex
President and CEO

Family Focus Will Be Applying For Grants to Support Eleven 21st Century Community Learning Centers

Family Focus will be applying for grants to support eleven 21st Century Community Learning Centers. These funds, which are granted by the Illinois State Board of Education, will be used to provide services for children and families in our partner schools. Our partner schools in Chicago are Bond, Dvorak, Foster Park, Henderson, Lewis, Penn, and Volta Elementary Schools.  In Aurora and Plano, our partner schools are three elementary schools, Bardwell, Dietrich, Rollins, and Plano High School.  If you have any questions or comments about these applications, please contact Kim Kelly, Associate Director of Community School Initiatives at 312.421.5200 or

Family Focus Gala Raises $484,000

A Night to Remember!

Steans Family Honored at Family Focus Gala
$484,000 raised for Family Focus programs

2014 Family Focus Gala chairs Mark and Mary Hoppe (right) led a Palmer House ballroom filled with Chicago business and civic leaders in a wonderful evening of celebration honoring the outstanding legacy of the Steans Family - Harrison & Lois and their daughters Heather, Jennifer and Robin. Special focus was on North Lawndale, where both the Steans Foundation and Family Focus are working to change the future for children and their families.

Special thanks

to our gala chairs, Mary and Mark Hoppe, the entire Steans Family, Susan and Richard Kiphart, Bernice Weissbourd, Ravinia, and all our event sponsors and attendees.

With your support, we’re helping families in North Lawndale and low-income communities all around Chicago give their children the best possible start in life.

Evening highlights:

*Addresses by Family Focus participants, present and past: Lawndale honor student Edward White (right) and Evanston Police Detective Tosha Wilson.

* A surprise performance by the Steans Institute-trained Aizuri string quartet.

Click here to view more pictures from our gala