For Families Matter, addressing social issues begins in the home. Their programs engage families across the community to help them build and maintain helpful, supportive relationships.
Families Matter supports men, women and teens through healthy relationship education. The nonprofit organization was founded in 2004 with a mission to “ increase the number of healthy, loving, caring and forgiving Families in Memphis, Shelby County and beyond through a community–wide movement.”
“With a motto of ‘Strengthening Families, Changing Lives, Transforming Memphis,’ we are a Christ-centered, nonprofit organization supporting the idea of making Memphis and Shelby County a great place to live and to raise a family,” said Carol Jackson, Executive Director.
Initially, Families Matter activities focused primarily on marriage training. However, Jackson explained that in 2008 new funding allowed for the development of a more comprehensive Families Matter program that supports healthy relationships, healthy marriages and healthy families. The organization is housed at Christ Community Health Services Center’s Central Avenue location at 2595 Central Avenue and child support parenting classes are offered at this location. The Healthy Relationship Teen classes are offered in different Shelby County Schools and in several Municipal Schools. The Dynamic Dad’s classes are offered at St. Francis, Baptist East Women’s Center, Methodist Germantown Women’s Pavillion.
“Other healthy relationship, parenting, and marriage classes are offered in churches, recreation centers, family life centers,” explained Jackson. “We do not expect people to come to us for training — our philosophy is to go where the training is needed.”
“Families Matter’s programs and ministry efforts have exceeded our expectations, with additional expansion expected in the coming months and years,” added Jackson. “We offer support to families to help combat issues such as the absence of fathers in the home, the high school dropout rate, infant mortality, spousal and child abuse, youth violence, the absence of discipline, a lack of respect for others, under-achieving students, crime, single-parent families and the intergenerational cycle of families living in poverty.”
Families Matter serves as a resource center, offering classes to help educate every member of a family, as well as those providing a support system to families. Believing that healthy relationships lead to healthy marriages and that, in turn, leads to healthy families, Families Matter offers workshops for couples with a goal of supporting healthy family dynamics prior to couples getting married. Workshops are also available for single parents, giving them the tools to help them make clearer assessments of the relationships that they have with others for the benefit of their children. If individuals or couples are in need of one-on-one attention, Families Matter will help connect them to counseling services in the Memphis/Shelby County area.
Families Matters also offers a series of fatherhood initiatives where men are being trained to accept their responsibilities both in the home and in society.
“Currently, the bulk of our training centers on fatherhood issues, promoting a model fatherhood program that equips boys and men with the tools to become responsible and accountable fathers,” said Jackson. “As one father told us, ‘I did not realize what I did not know until I learned how to be a better man, father and husband in the class.’ Fatherhood classes are also taught in schools to help boys and young men understand the importance of being a responsible man.”
Families Matter programs include 12 principles of Manhood, 24/7 Dads, Nurturing Fathers, Doctor Dad, and even a boot camp for new dads to help them develop into strong, loving fathers.
“We try to help fathers understand that they need to know how to assess the needs of their children when they are in their care,” added Jackson. “We are working with Maximus, an official child support agency, to train parents how to respond appropriately to their children, as well as to the children’s mother or other caretaker.”
“For teens, Families Matter addresses many of the unspoken struggles in their lives,” said Jackson. “We offer upbeat presentations and discussions with outreach educators to reach teens and provide step-by-step lessons to help them learn to make responsible life choices. Our focus is on reaching educational goals first, job goals second, and marriage/family third.”
In partnership with the Shelby County Schools, Families Matter is striving to reach 10,000 students this year with engaging conversations about the seasons of life and the benefits of healthy relationships and healthy families. Additionally, Families Matter supports teachers by providing Healthy Relationship curricula to more than 35 teachers and workbooks to over 6,000 students in Shelby County and Municipal Schools, ages 12-21.
And in support of others seeking to serve families, Families Matter offers practical Christian counseling to give pastors and partnering organizations “some starting points and resources for times of struggle and crisis, including youth ministry resources.”