Providence Children's Museum Wins National Award
Providence Children's Museum has been awarded the 2006 MetLife Foundation and Association of Children's Museums Promising Practice Replication Award for it's highly acclaimed Families Together Program. Families Together - a partnership between the Museum and the Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth and Families - provides therapeutic visitations for children and parents separated by court order due to abuse or neglect. "It is a considerable honor to be recognized by our peers in the children¹s museum field," said Janice O'Donnell, the Museum's Executive Director. "Children's museums are amazingly dynamic and innovative institutions, yet none has a program like Families Together. This is a wonderful opportunity to spread the word."
Established in 1999, the Promising Practice Award provides recognition and inspiration for children's museums to develop programs that are inclusive, meet community needs, encourage community partnerships and promote lifelong learning. The Promising Practice Replication Award was launched in 2004 and was open to Providence Children's Museum as a previous Promising Practice Award winner. It provides the Museum with a $10,000 grant to develop a "tool kit" to further share the practice with other children's museums across the country. In 2003, the program was a finalist for the highly competitive Innovations in American Government Award. Patricia McGinnis, President for the Council for Excellence in Government, said, "There are more than 300 children¹s museums in the United States. Families Together is a wonderful model that can be replicated in every one of them."
Started in 1992, Families Together uses a creative and highly effective approach to help court-separated families and train child welfare workers. "Court-ordered separation is traumatic for parents and children," said Heidi Brinig, Director of Families Together. "Because the Museum is designed to inspire learning between parents and children, it is the perfect place for families who are struggling to rebuild damaged relationships." Visitation is understood to be one of the most critical factors for families involved with a child welfare system. Rebuilding relationships is imperative for families hoping to live together once again. Instead of the ordinary settings for such visits - sterile government office buildings or noisy fast-food restaurants - Providence Children's Museum offers families a welcoming, stimulating, safe environment. Through shared learning and play, the program helps participants rebuild relationships and strengthen parenting skills. In addition, caseworkers receive a more complete picture of each family, which leads to more accurate and valid recommendations to family court judges. Families Together has developed a comprehensive program offering guidance and training to DCYF staff and is changing visitation practices throughout Rhode Island.