From Mary’s Center’s inception, the complex needs of our participant community steered us toward adopting a holistic, multi-pronged approach to helping individuals and families. This approach, our Social Change Model, is based on the principle that treating individuals and families for their health problems alone is insufficient to help overcome the multiple life challenges they often face. Instead, we look at all of the pressures in their lives and deliver an integrated set of health care, education, and social services to put them on the path toward good health, stable families, and economic independence.
By taking an active role in services including adult medicine, prenatal care, family planning, English and computer literacy programs, smoking cessation programs, social services, and education programs for young children, our participants are healthier and better equipped to move up the economic ladder.
A family coming to Mary’s Center typically confronts a range of obstacles that can affect its members’ ability to attain well-being. That is why at Mary’s Center we listen carefully and ask questions that go beyond the initial problem—typically a health issue—that has brought participants through the door.
For instance, while offering health care to a troubled young mother, we talk to her about what’s going on in her life. Does she have a supportive partner? Are family members employed? With how many people is she sharing a home? Is there any sign of domestic violence or child abuse, and if so, would she agree to a visit from a social worker in our home visitation program? We ask if she and her child would like to enroll in our family literacy classes, where they can learn English together and where she can learn to be her child’s first and best teacher. We discuss whether she thinks her younger brother, who is starting to get involved with gangs, would like to join our teen program, which has a strong record of helping adolescents make better life choices. Maybe her sister, whose tooth ache is causing her to miss work, would like to use our dental services?
Once we’ve assessed our participants’ needs, we create a custom prescription of services to help them find solutions to their life problems. These prescriptions include our own wide range of services and programs as well as other community resources such as housing, jobs, and additional education opportunities.
Although we have used elements of a social change model since opening our doors in 1988, it wasn’t until 2004 that a capacity-building grant from Venture Philanthropy Partners gave us the opportunity to assess our work and refine our approach. That grant, totaling close to $4 million over four years, permitted us to hire the staff and purchase the outcomes tracking software needed to examine our model and assess how it transforms lives. To learn about our outcomes, click here.
Transforming lives is what Mary’s Center is all about!