After 20 years of bringing court-separated families together,
Museum opens Nina’s House for parents and children at risk

PROVIDENCE, RI – Providence Children’s Museum is celebrating the 20th anniversary of Families Together – an innovative program for court-separated families – and expanding its services with Nina’s House, a homelike environment for children and families opening on February 15.

Created by Providence Children’s Museum in collaboration with the RI Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) in 1992, Families Together provides therapeutic visitation and permanency planning for children in foster care and their families.

When the state steps in to remove children from their parents’ care because of abuse or neglect, the usual goal is to reunite the family. While parents are helped to acquire the skills and resources they need to care for their children, the children live in foster care. It is critical that children and parents have regular high-quality contact while living separately. Families Together participants – children ages 1 to 11, their parents, and often extended family members –¬ work with the program’s family therapists to rebuild relationships and strengthen parenting skills. During visits, the therapists assess the family’s strengths and challenges and help develop a permanency plan so their lives won’t be disrupted again.

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For 20 years, DCYF-involved families in need of special guidance have played and learned together at Providence Children’s Museum – a nurturing and inspiring environment for fostering positive parent-child interaction for all families, especially those at risk. Since its inception Families Together has helped more than 2,000 families. In 2011, the program served 500 children and parents in 180 families.

With the addition of Nina’s House, a Providence home purchased and renovated by The Nina Foundation, families will also rebuild relationships while practicing basic skills in a warm, homelike setting conducive to family healing. It will enable the Families Together program to expand clinical services to serve more families and better meet their specific needs; fill a major need for early and thorough assessment of DCYF-involved families; provide parenting skill development for more families with very young children; and better serve those with serious emotional and cognitive challenges.

“Nina’s House provides a wonderful opportunity to grow Families Together to better meet the needs of fragile families and continue our leadership in modeling best practices in challenging and changing times,” said Providence Children’s Museum Executive Director Janice O’Donnell.

Families Together’s approach is regarded as a best practice throughout the state and nation, with the program’s staff seen as experts in therapeutic visitation and permanency planning. The program was a top finalist for the prestigious Innovations in American Government Award in 2003, which recognizes innovative and effective government initiatives.

In 2006, the program received a Promising Practice Replication Award from MetLife Foundation and the Association of Children’s Museums, inspiring the development of other programs based on the Families Together model. Families Together has advised new child welfare partnerships for Rhode Island’s Family Resources Community Action Program and Family Services, Children’s Museum of the Arts and Long Island Children’s Museum in New York, and Niantic Children’s Museum in Connecticut.

Providence Children’s Museum is grateful to The Nina Foundation as well as to Ocean State Charities Trust, Admirals Bank, Creative Office Environments, and to 50 individuals who contributed cash gifts, toys and household items to Nina’s House for supporting children in foster care and their families as they strengthen their relationships and work toward permanency.

“Nina’s House is about and for families – a place where families can grow through the reunification process,” said Mike Dionne, director of The Nina Foundation. “It’s really going to be an exceptional place.”

Megan Fischer, Director of Communications
(401) 273-5437 ext. 126