Part of HYPE’s mission is to help young professionals become better engaged in community life, expand professional and social opportunities, and become ambassadors for the Hartford Region. HYPE encourages cross-collaboration among agencies and organizations that offer opportunities to volunteer in the community. The Community Conversations series focuses on interviewing professionals in a local nonprofit to bring awareness to their mission, highlight their impact in the community, and to provide information on how to get more involved with the organization. For the October edition, HYPEster and Community Involvement Committee Member Charmaine Mullings interviewed Anne Danaher of Jewish Family Services.
What is the mission of Jewish Family Services
Jewish Family Services mission is to enhance and strengthen the quality of life, through the Jewish tradition of caring and compassion. The way the organization enacts that mission is by providing education, counseling and other support services with the goal of helping anyone who comes to JFS toward greater self-reliance in their life, depending on what that means for each individual.
There are a variety of ways through their programs that JFS is able to enact their mission. Each individual is assessed according to the strengths they bring to Jewish Family Services; a determination is made of their life situation and the ways JFS can help them to grow in whatever ways they want to. This is also in addition to overcoming some of the challenges they face in their lives. This is achieved through use of counseling services, assistance in finding a job, or use of the kosher food services.
One of the challenges the organization faces is the misconception that Jewish Family Services is primarily faith based. Although Jewish Family Services is rooted in the Jewish tradition, they welcome all to participate in their programs.
What is your role within the organization?
Anne Danaher is the Executive Director of Jewish Family Services, and part of her role as director, is to oversee all of the operations and programs of the organization. She represents Jewish Family Services in the community fairly extensively. Anne is involved in a wide range of other community boards, and attends various functions on behalf of Jewish Family Services. This allows JFS to accomplish its goal of being a part of the greater Hartford community, through collaborating with other Not for Profits and schools in the area. Jewish Family Services is stronger and better able to serve their cause, through their partnerships with other organizations. Additionally, this extends the organization’s reach within the community which is important to their cause.
How do you implement your services or programs?
Before a new program starts, first, a need is identified within the community and the program is created around this need. An example is the Jewish Employment Transition Services program (JETS) and how it started. In 2008 during the financial crisis, there were a lot of corporate layoffs. Jewish Family Services recognized there was a need for employment services for individuals who had, in most cases, not been under employed or not been chronically unemployed. They were however laid off from long term positions or were new to the area and needed to find work.
During the planning process for any program, a determination is made how to best address the need. Some of the questions to be addressed are: Do we need to work with other partners? In that case, who are those partners? The components of the program are then identified, the kind of services that will be offered and what it takes to provide those services. Do we need staff with specialized skills? Are there certain educational requirements, or certification required for staff involved in the program? Do we need a certain kind of license as an organization before the program can be implemented?
Those are all the factors that go into starting to plan and implement a program. Anne sees it as an exciting process, and one of the things she loves best about her work, when you get to identify a need and create a program that addresses that gap in services. Anne points out that one of the things Jewish Family Services pride themselves on is their obligation to be able to respond to community needs as they occur, that is, those within their area of expertise.
Anne says if you want to simplify the mission of Jewish Family Services, this can best be done with a phrase that is within the Jewish religion that talks about the “obligation to repair the world and to make the world a better place”. This epitomizes what Jewish Family Services does.
In what ways has your organization been impactful in your cause?
This can be seen not just in the program and services delivery, it is also about the staff, Board, and volunteers involved. Anne believes in everyone working together to make these programs a reality, that collective effort is really where the impact comes from. This can be seen in any one of the programs offered by Jewish Family Services, whether it’s the behavioral health program, or the separately incorporated home care agency, employment transitions, or food pantry. In every area, there is actually a way to show the organization’s impact.
Jewish Family Services is state licensed by state agencies, and is also nationally accredited. Part of what JFS is required to do, and what they also want to do, is to measure their impact and effectiveness. As a result, every program has outcome measures that are analyzed. This is done through performance and quality improvement, which includes all programs and management areas. The PQI committee is comprised of staff, board members, management, volunteers, other community partners, and clients who participate in the organization services. The programs and services are built on evidence-based outcomes and there are quarterly meetings to look at outcomes in every single program and service area.
There are benchmarks that need to be met, Anne says, and they go beyond just seeing the clients and the difference Jewish Family Services make in their lives. If the program isn’t working, they go back and determine why that benchmark is not being met. When a benchmark is met in a certain program area continuously, they have mastered that area, so a new goal is set. The whole cycle of ongoing performance and quality improvement at all times is very important to Jewish Family Services.
The impact is measured in several areas, and aside from hard data, they also anecdotally see the life transitions that clients make. When clients are ready to leave their services they complete a satisfaction survey. In doing this, JFS are able to evaluate how they made progress and how they themselves are feeling about their life situation. There are also very specific client outcome measures, similar to how the programs have outcome measures. For example, in behavioral healthcare, at different points in treatment in behavioral health programs, clients participate in a 90 day review/goal setting process. This is used to measure progress, which can be differently defined depending on each individual. Therefore, overall, there are ways to know impact, and because JFS serves a broad range of individuals, that is very important, because it’s very specific to each program.
In child services, they see children as young as four and in older adult services there are clients that are 100 years old. Anne goes on to say that this can make it challenging to know whether the programs are impactful and advancing the mission. However, JFS has enough in place to assess that and is always looking to improve. There is also continuity, as JFS are also fortunate to have staff stay for a very long time so if someone comes back five years later and wanted to, they might be able to see the same social worker they saw initially.
How does someone get more involved?
Volunteers bring in new perspectives and new ideas and there are a number of ways to get involved. Sometimes people participate in some of the programs and want to do something as a volunteer. If there is no prior relationship, typically the way you might start is by contacting the volunteer coordinator to learn about volunteer opportunities. Some are hands on, such as helping in the kosher food pantry, volunteers also visit with older adults who are homebound, and people serve on the board of directors, and committees.
You may have a specialized skill and want to volunteer those services. It’s not just about volunteering within the services offered by the organization; Jewish Family Services is also willing to explore other volunteer opportunities that they need to develop. People attend some of the events and decide to volunteer afterwards, because something may have resonated with them and they decide to become involved. To get more involved contact Sherry Waitsman by email or by phone 860-761-7080. You can also visit their volunteer page.