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.



Click here to watch the sildeshow.


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.


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

Organizational Update

March 2014

An organizational update from Merri Ex, President and CEO, Family Focus

We have had a particularly brutal 2014 winter, but that hasn’t impeded Family Focus’ commitment and enthusiasm in serving more than 10,000 children and families in the past eight months. This memo shares some highlights with you:

  • Family Focus celebrates its 38th year in the spring and we are grateful and privileged that Bernice Weissbourd, our founder, continues to be an inspiration for participants, staff and leaders in the early education field.
  • More than 1,600 families are receiving early childhood services, such as home visits, doula prenatal services and early literacy programming through Family Focus to ensure children are reaching developmental milestones and getting the best possible start in life.
  • More than 3,500 youth and their parents or caregivers participated in Family Focus’ pre-and after-school enrichment programs in schools and at our seven centers.  These programs include a robust STEAM curriculum (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) taught through robotics and chess clubs, tutoring and homework help, digital media projects and parent mentoring group.
  • Another 5,000 individuals participated in parenting education including grandparents raising grandchildren and fatherhood groups, health and fitness classes, computer training, English as a Second Language, citizenship classes, computer classes,  tutoring programs, summer camps and violence prevention activities.
  • As government resources devoted to human services continue to shrink, our board and staff have enhanced efforts to bring new private funds to support programs.  In the past two years, private income has increased by 44%.
  • We launched an associate board, a diverse group of young professionals to bring new ideas, energy and skills to Family Focus.
  • Family Focus’ next three-year strategic plan will go into effect on July 1, 2014.  We are currently gathering information from funders, sister organizations, our board, participants and staff to create a plan which continues to place strengthening families in and with their communities the center of our work.  If you have any suggestions, please let me know by e-mailing at

Please mark your calendars for the Family Focus 2014 dinner gala honoring the Steans family, who will receive the Bernice Weissbourd Award for Family Support to recognize their many philanthropic contributions in our region.

On behalf of Family Focus’ thousands of participants, thank you for your dedication and support.

Family Focus Anniversary Gala Honoring The Steans Family on June 25, 2014


Family Focus Anniversary Gala
Honoring the Steans Family
Palmer House Hotel
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Reception 6:00 p.m.
Dinner 6:45 p.m.

To view the invitation, click here

Sponsorship opportunities:

Corporate Sponsorship

Individual Sponsorship

Individual Tickets:

Tickets are $350 each
To purchase tickets, click here

Family Focus is grateful for the generosity of our sponsors:

Susan and Richard Kiphart


Steans Family
Bernice Weissbourd


Barack Ferrazzano Kirschbaum & Nagelberg LLP
Chicago Tribune
The Crown Family
Beverly and Warren Hayford
Kay and Jim Mabie
MB Financial Bank
Morgan Stanley
Prairie Capital
Pritzker Family Foundation
Sandler O’Neill + Partners, L.P.
Sidley Austin LLP
Winston & Strawn LLP

Baxter International Inc.
Crowe Horwath LLP
Ernst & Young, LLP
First Bank & Trust
Hub International Midwest, Ltd.
Irving Harris Foundation
Carol and Edward Kaplan
Mesirow Financial
Northern Trust
The PrivateBank
Diana and Bruce Rauner
Robert R. McCormick Foundation
John W. and Jeanne M. Rowe
Steven Kent
Wolf & Company

Ariel Investments
Merri and Mitchell Ex
E. Vaughn Gordy III
Amanda and Carol Kloster
Frances and Elliot Lehman
Addie and Harold Morrison
Cathy and Bill Osborn
Esther S. Saks
SB Friedman Development Advisors
Penny Bender Sebring and Charles Ashby Lewis
Rita Sussman
Anne and John Tuohy
Urban Partnership Bank


Family Focus Youth Gets Four Year Scholarship from Magic Johnson

Family Focus Youth Gets Four Year Scholarship from Magic Johnson

Haman Cross IV, shown here with basketball legend Magic Johnson and Governor Pat Quinn, was presented a four year scholarship to the college of his choice in an emotional presentation at the Magic Johnson Lawndale Bridgescape Academy, an alternative school for troubled youth.  Mr. Johnson said of Haman Cross IV,

“If I did not know Haman I would have never thought he was in high school by the way he carries himself and speaks. Listening to him lets me know more of these schools are needed."

Haman Cross, who worked as a Family Focus summer camp counselor this past summer and whose father is a Resource Coordinator with Family Focus, has said his dream school is the University of Michigan.

Click Here to read an article and watch a video posted on CBS Chicago Local!