2023 Wear Blue Day with Family and Children's Place staff members.

A History of Helping

Writer / Makenna Hall

Through the Great Depression and, much later, the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, Family & Children’s Place has long been dedicated to protecting and healing the community.

This fall, Family & Children’s Place will celebrate its 140th anniversary, making it one of the oldest nonprofits operating in the state. Throughout the course of its existence, the nonprofit took on many different names as it established itself and found its specialty in aiding families.

Continuing to ensure the organization can serve the community for over a century has taken a lot of work and dedication.

“This kind of work is important because I just believe every kid deserves the best they can have,” said Pam Darnall, CEO. “They deserve every opportunity – the same opportunities as kids who come from better-resourced neighborhoods and better-resourced homes,” she continued, noting that this does not mean that child abuse and neglect only occur in under-resourced homes.

Darnall has been with the company for nearly 30 years, spending 10 of them as CEO. The organization serves 30 counties in Kentucky and 10 counties in Indiana, operating out of several offices and satellite locations. The main campus is located in downtown Louisville in the building it owns at 1000 South 5th Street.

Pam Darnall, CEO

The group has also had a presence at the YMCA on 18th Street and Broadway downtown since the facility opened in 2019. Darnall recalls being present for the groundbreaking and grand opening of the building.

Being located at the YMCA allows Family & Children’s Place to provide mental health services to underserved populations.

The organization offers free individual, family, group and school-based counseling to its clients. Interventions offered include play therapy, trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, narrative therapy, and motivational therapy.

“Mental health impacts every one of us,” Darnall said. “I’ve been a Y member for 30 years and I definitely believe that both our mental and our physical health are directly connected, and being in a location with already existing partners is how we want to be.”

Partnerships play a significant role in the organization and its impact on the community. Some other partnerships include Metro United Way, Community Coordinated Child Care, Norton Healthcare and Baptist Health Floyd, among many others.

“We are all about collaborating and working in partnerships with other organizations,” Darnall said.

An in-home service that the organization formed as a partnership with the Louisville Metro Department of Health and Wellness in the mid-1990s has since become a statewide program in Kentucky.

Family & Children’s Place (then called Family and Children’s Counseling Centers) developed HANDS (Health Access Nurturing Development Services) to provide additional support to new and expectant parents.

“It’s really to help new parents and parents to navigate the challenges of parenting, and to help them to have safe, loving, nurturing homes,” Darnall said. “That’s important because that really is how children are safe. That’s how they grow up in happy, healthy homes: when parents have the supports they need.”

By 2003 the Cabinet for Health and Family Services implemented the program across the state. The state department handles the program across the state, and Family & Children’s Place still operates HANDS in all of Jefferson County.

Over 400 families took part in HANDS at Family & Children’s Place in 2022, with 59 families graduating from the program, according to the organization’s yearly impact report.

In 2022 HANDS was almost the highest-expensed program for the organization, second only to Greater Louisville Head Start, which encompassed over half of 2022’s expenses.

Family & Children’s Place has worked over the last four years to bring Head Start back to Jefferson County in partnership with Community Coordinated Child Care.

“We work with five different child care centers in various locations, in all underserved locations, to make sure that there are services in areas that sometimes don’t have adequate services,” Darnall said.

The program includes Head Start and Early Head Start, the latter helping children from birth to age 3 reach school readiness and supporting the family’s well-being, with the option of in-home instruction. Head Start works with children up to age 5 at the five child care centers.

In 2021 the program was able to serve 305 families, totaling 343 children. Darnall said the group’s goal is to aid 500 children through Head Start programs when classrooms are fully staffed.

Family & Children’s Place also looks to help children older than 5 years old thrive academically and mentally, through school-based programs. The programs are aimed at educating children and their caregivers about emotional literacy, substance abuse prevention, leadership and family support, by partnering with groups like Kentucky Career Center, First Financial Bank, Louisville Visual Arts and Louisville Orchestra.

The organization currently has a presence at three schools in Kentuckiana: Meyzeek Middle School, Engelhard Elementary School and Hazelwood Middle School.

Another service Family & Children’s Place offers in both Kentucky and Indiana is the Child Advocacy Center. The center is present at the organization’s main campus downtown called Kosair Charities Child Advocacy Center, in the new Jeffersonville office, and at Baptist Health Floyd in New Albany. The centers help children that have experienced sexual abuse, human trafficking and severe physical abuse.

The Kosair Charities Child Advocacy Center shares its location with Louisville Metro Police Department’s Crimes Against Children Unit and child protective services. The center also has prosecutors, medical experts and mental health clinicians on-site, according to the Family & Children’s Place website.

Those interested in supporting Family & Children’s Place can volunteer their time for the organization. Darnall said volunteers can help in a variety of ways such as helping to answer phones, fill mailers and prepare for events.

Volunteers are also able to help with the school-based services, for those who want to work hands-on with children and families.

Family & Children’s Place has been able to help families across Kentuckiana, but Darnall noted that it has been difficult obtaining enough funding to fully support the community’s needs.

“We really have had to significantly reduce the mental health services that we can provide,” Darnall said. “In fact, we’ve had to reduce our mental health services by 50% [over the last two years].”

While the community has been a great support for Family & Children’s Place, Darnall said there are two main issues when considering funding. “Donating over the past year across our country has trended down, and so fewer people have fewer dollars to give, and we absolutely understand that,” Darnall said. “But the other issue is that often when nonprofit organizations are able to get grants, they are extremely restricted on how they can be used.”

If an organization cannot use funds in the way specified by a local or federal grant, then the money has to be returned. Darnall said that often, grant funds that Family & Children’s Place received could not be used on salaries.

Restrictive grants can prevent nonprofits from having the luxury of deciding how to reinvest in their company, be it through raises or building expansions, which hampers the ability to help the community, according to Darnall. “That entity, especially one that’s been around for 140 years, knows how to do its business really well,” Darnall said.

Despite the financial challenges that the organization has faced over the last few years, in 2022 alone, Family & Children’s Place was able to serve 2,270 families and 4,275 individuals, and continue its nearly century-and-a-half-long legacy of helping the community.

“There are organizations that have a historical impact on our community, and we’re one of those,” Darnall said.

To learn more, go to familyandchildrensplace.org.

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