In March five of the seven Cleveland units introduced the national Boys & Girls Clubs organization’s Family Plus program.
Since then, the club units have hosted a variety of Family Plus events with one main goal in mind — to involve the children’s families with what they are doing there. The idea of the Family Plus program is to allow club staff to partner with families to teach the children and to allow families to grow closer as a result.
“Some of them don’t know what’s going on at all,” said Katrina Payne, parent director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland. “Unfortunately, a lot of parents don’t want to come.”
Payne pointed out that many children at the after-school program spend a considerable amount of time there, with some even staying until 7 or 8 at night because of their parents’ work schedules. If children begin school around 8 in the morning, some may be spending more than half of their waking hours away from their families. This makes spending time together difficult for some families.
The idea of Family Plus, she said, is to involve parents in something the children are already part of in order to add more family time to their schedules during the week.
“The biggest thing is giving them time together as a family,” Payne said. “If something is not planned, it’s hard to get everyone together.”
Local units have been hosting events like family cooking classes, game nights, art activities and short trips to see things like Chattanooga Lookouts baseball games. Payne said one of her favorite events was a “family AFV night.” AFV stands for “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” and attendees rated funny videos found on the website YouTube as if they were in the audience of the ABC television show.
“They can just come and be a family — and see how easy it is to spend time as a family,” Payne said.
Payne recalled talking to one young girl after an event that allowed children and their families to make tie-dye T-shirts together. The girl said her family liked that activity so much that they bought their own tie-dye supplies and were planning to do that activity with their grandma as well, making for even more time spent together as a family.
There are many future events in the works, she said, including holiday parties and events for boys and their father figures or girls and their mother figures.
The events allow families to spend time together, but that is not the only goal staff members have in mind when planning them. They believe parent involvement helps encourage children to succeed in school and in other areas of their lives further down the road.
Payne said she has heard of studies about parent involvement that have shown the children who do the best in school often have higher rates of parent involvement at home. As an after-school program, the clubs share a lot of the same concerns that schools may have about students’ parents being involved.
“It helps them to have a strong family that supports them,” she said.
The clubs currently offer parent-only events such as orientation classes for parents whose children are new to the clubs but hope to add more events in the future. Ideas for future events include things like parenting and financial planning classes. Payne said that many of the children within the clubs come from bad home situations, but the organization wants to help any parents who want to learn new skills to help them in their parenting.
“We want to serve not just kids but their families,” Payne said.
She said clubs’ staffs hope adding more activities geared toward parents will encourage more of them to get involved with their children’s activities.
For more information about the organization and its upcoming events for families, visit www.boysandgirlsclubs.info or call 423-559-8299.