History of Families First

In 1979, two South Beach Psychiatric Center professionals established our center (then called The Brooklyn Center for Family Life) as a preventive community mental health service. The founding therapists traveled to Chicago and studied the Family Focus centers, which became the primary model for Families First. The founders’ goal was to offer new parents in the neighborhood a comfortable place to meet, share their new roles, and learn about parenting, while their children played safely nearby. This drop-in center would welcome parents and caregivers, reducing the isolation, and alleviating some of the stress of child rearing in the city.

Re-named “Families First” in 1983, our continuing goal is to serve as a supportive environment for our members, their children and their caregivers. Families First provides a safe place for parents and caregivers to bring young children. The Center provides activities and spaces where the child is the center of activity, and we offer parents and caregivers frequent parenting workshops, classes, support groups, and a lending library stocked with parenting-related books.

Here, families can find a network of support, education and social activities geared to their needs. Through building a community of families, the isolation of the parent and/or caregiver is significantly reduced. Through volunteer projects at the Center, the whole community benefits from parents’ contributions. We need and encourage the participation of volunteers from our membership to make Families First the best it can be. It is our goal to be a “home away from home” for the parents and friends of Families First.

Families First is a not-for-profit member-driven corporation; we exist on membership fees, donations, and volunteer services. We have a permanent part-time staff of two. Our Board of Directors is made up of volunteers from our membership and our greater community. Each board member brings a wealth of energy and experience to our center. The Board determines our strategic, fundraising, and social goals for the year, and accomplishes these goals by volunteering their time and recruiting volunteers from our community.