Georgia Family Connection Celebrates 25-Year Commitment to Families and Communities

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Georgia Family Connection—the only statewide network of its kind in the country dedicated to the health and well-being of families and communities—turned 25 this year.

“This anniversary represents a significant milestone for us,” said Gaye Smith, executive director of Georgia Family Connection Partnership (GaFCP), a public-private partnership that supports the Family Connection statewide network. “It’s a testament to our unwavering commitment of working toward measurably better outcomes for everyone—healthy children who are primed for school and succeed when they get there; families who are stable, self-sufficient, and productive; and communities that are vibrant, robust, and thriving.”

This anniversary is also a testament to the strength of the relationships Family Connection maintains with partners in all 159 counties. “What we do is vital, because on any given day thousands of Georgians are sitting at tables across the state focused on improving conditions of the children and families they know best,” said Smith. “One of our core beliefs is that lasting change is local.”

This statewide network gives Family Connection a unique vantage point—not only to see the big picture, but also to operate effectively at a local level.

“Every community has families that need help at some point,” said GaFCP Board Chair Bryan Williams. “Their conditions improve when caring people come together to provide those folks with tools and opportunities to succeed. Every community has its own unique set of needs, and people rally around their own local needs with greater passion than they do arbitrary program goals assigned by an outside agency. I saw that in action when I served on the Berrien County Family Connection Collaborative, and now I see that across the state as a GaFCP Board member.”

Back in the early 1990s, conditions for children and families in Georgia were among the worst in the nation. The private and public sectors—though working hard to improve the lives of our most vulnerable citizens—weren’t working together. Georgia Family Connection was established to connect and convene key community members committed to improving the well-being of children and families.

“It was a privilege to work with Governor Zell Miller to introduce the bill to create Georgia Family Connection,” said Sen. Nan Orrock. “Today, 25 years later, I am heartened that this groundbreaking collaborative effort continues to excel in serving Georgia’s children and families so effectively.”

Fifteen communities volunteered to participate in the pilot. By 2004, all 159 counties had voluntarily joined the statewide network, and in 2003 The Annie E. Casey Foundation named GaFCP the state KIDS COUNT grantee.

“GaFCP is the backbone organization for Georgia’s statewide Family Connection initiative,” said Stan Schneider, president of Metis Associates, a national research and consulting firm headquartered in New York City. “Through sustained guidance, support, and advocacy, they’ve mobilized the state’s community Collaboratives to collectively bring about significant improvements in key indicators like teen birth, high-school graduation rates, and instances of child abuse and neglect. This work not only deserves our admiration, but warrants national recognition and systematic replication.”

Reimagining the Future
“We have a lot to celebrate,” said Smith. “But we also have a lot of work to do. I believe Georgia is poised to do tremendous things for our children and families in the years to come to ensure that this state remains a great place in which to raise children and do business.”

Georgia Family Connection has 25 years of experience grappling with thorny or complex issues, making sense of it all, and getting results. Listening, learning, acting, and gaining wisdom along the way. Family Connection will embark on the next quarter century by refreshing its brand and redeveloping its website to better connect partners to the resources they need to empower communities to craft local solutions based on local, data-driven decisions.

“Providing an infrastructure for communities to help themselves makes Georgia different than any other state,” said Williams. “It’s where we excel. Through this structure, our state has cultivated an effective resource flow for our communities and families. That flow is leading to measurably better conditions in all our communities—and is benefiting each of us as Georgians.”

Smith agrees. “I was born, raised, and educated in this state, and I love it dearly,” she said. “And I feel like it’s part of my responsibility, just as you do, to make sure this state remains a great one for all the children who will come after us.”


We’re going to take you on a journey—region by region—throughout our anniversary year to share with you the landscape for children and families across our state. We’re going to show you what Georgia Family Connection is doing—and plans to do—to ensure that our communities and state thrive. We begin with the 25 things you need to know about Region 1.

Bill Valladares

GaFCP Communications Director

Follow us on Twitter: @gafcpnews