UGA researchers aim to build stronger families with $8.2 million federal grant

Print This Post

A team of University of Georgia researchers hopes to build stronger families in 13 northeast Georgia counties with the help of an $8.2 million federal grant.

“Our ultimate goal is to provide support to reduce the risk of parents entering the DFCS system and to create safe and stable homes,” said Ted Futris, a professor in UGA’s College of Family and Consumer Sciences and the lead researcher in the five-year project.

The project will bring together faculty members in UGA’s colleges of Family and Consumer Sciences, Education and Social Work, with UGA students and workers from area government agencies and non-profits, including the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services, Georgia Family Connection, Great Start Georgia, Strengthening Families Georgia and Project Safe.

Their goal is to work with and help about 1,500 families in Clarke and 12 other nearby counties, most of them rural. They’re targeting children and families at highest risk, including those with new parents, foster parents and relative caregivers for children removed from their primary families, and families reunified after children come out of foster care.

In addition to the university researchers, those working in the project include UGA students, three full-time coordinators each working in a part of the 13-county area, and perhaps most important of all, part-time workers who’ll be working with the families to build skills in handling stress, financial management, relationship skills and other areas, and helping evaluate how well they’re succeeding.

Students will get special training for the project, including tax preparation so they can help families with their income tax returns.

It’s often a criticism of university projects that researchers come in and do good work for a while, but then they’re gone, Futris noted. But those part-time workers they’ll be hiring soon will help keep the work going even after the end of the five-year grant he said.

“I feel very confident we’re going to find great people in all of these communities,” Futris said. “Our aim is to build capacity over the next five years so that when the funding ends we have a strong partners who can support and sustain these services and classes.”

The program, funded by the federal Administration for Children and Families, an agency in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, starts this spring. But hiring is already underway.

Those who work in the project will work with families in DFCS Region 5 — Barrow, Clarke, Elbert, Greene, Jackson, Jasper, Madison, Morgan, Newton, Oconee, Oglethorpe, Rockdale and Walton counties.

Georgia ranks 42nd among states in children’s well-being, according to the annual Kids Count report.

The research project was in part inspired by another successful project Futris worked with, he said — the Strong African American Families Project, led by another UGA faculty member, Gene Brody.

The success of that south Georgia effort is one of the reasons Futris believes the northeast Georgia effort will do what it aims to do.

“When all these great minds and hearts work together, we will see that we have really made a difference in helping families,” Futris said.

Follow education reporter Lee Shearer at or

Read the story on

Georgia Family Connection is a statewide network with a Collaborative in all 159 counties.