50 Families Project

According to the Ohio Development Services Agency’s 2018 Ohio Poverty Report, one out of three Cincinnatians lives in poverty – that’s more than 85,000 individuals. Santa Maria works with more than 3,000 individuals each year who live below the poverty line to help them attain self-sufficiency and reach their health, education, and financial goals. Because we understand poverty is the main barrier to why most families are unable to achieve these goals, our family-centered services focus on bringing families out of poverty. In 2018, we set a goal of working closely with 50 families with young children to raise their income to move them on a path out of poverty.

Although an ongoing development, the 50 Families Project looked at families for one year, from January to December of 2018. The project focused on the entire family, assisting them with multiple services. Santa Maria recognizes that families enrolled in multiple programs are more successful and do better in the long-term than those who only receive a single service. An example of our family-centered approach includes home visitors working with caregivers and children to increase childhood development skills, while providing these caregivers and family members with resources to achieve housing and financial stability.

At the start of the project, families first set goals for themselves and their children, which included advanced education
(especially for immigrant families with kids), better housing conditions, and neighborhood safety. “We’ve had to change
our attitudes toward families and be willing to accept what they see as a priority in their lives right now, not what we see
as a priority. And it takes time; it did not happen overnight and will not be cured overnight,” noted Susan Conrad, who
oversees Santa Maria’s preschool home-visitation program. “We were trying to impose our goals and we had to back down and let their goals be the driving force. When the family leads the way, they are more invested and more highly motivated to change.”

Of the 57 families that Santa Maria worked most closely with, 44 (77%) increased their income. One family was able to move above 200% of the federal poverty level, which means they are able to comfortably meet their family’s financial needs. The average monthly income for these 44 families increased by $713 a month. The project not only assisted families with earning more income but helped some families to receive an income for the very first time. Susan Conrad noted, “Moms started into the program with zero income and by connecting them to resources, we’ve been able to change that.” Many families have increased their self-sufficiency, achieved stabilized housing, and have obtained and/or retained employment, factors which lead to stabilization of the school setting for children.

Conrad says of one family, “They got to the place where they were more stable, started their business, and doubled their income.” This year, Santa Maria has expanded the 50 Families Project to focus on 80 families and continues to move them on this path out of poverty.