Today Not Tomorrow Family Resource Center collaborators Jeanne
Erickson (l-r), Betty Banks, Tia Murray, Hershey Barnett-Bridges and
The TNT Family Resource Center Is
Open for Business
Part 2 of 2
By Jonathan Gramling
Back in the early to mid-1990s into the 2000s, a health collaboration,
South Madison Family & Health Center – Harambee located in the
Villager Mall, created a one-stop shop for early childhood education
and health. Due to funding and other considerations, that collaborative
broke up and many of the partners went their separate ways. But that
didn’t mean that the spirit and goals of Harambee died with it.
Betty Banks, the former director of the Family Enhancement
component, has always been looking for a way to replicate key
elements of that collaboration and found her chance with some seed
money and an available room at the East Madison Community Center.
Through Today Not Tomorrow, Banks and collaborators from the
African American Breastfeeding Alliance of Dane County, Harambee
Village Doulas, Neighborhood Connectors and Integrative Fitness
along with partners from the Access Community Health, East Madison Neighborhood Center, Centering Pregnancy and the Meadowood Health
Partnership will be fully launching the TNT Family Resource Center.
The collaborative services of the center will provide encouragement, support, information and guidance to women from conception to birth to the
children becoming toddlers and beyond. The core of the services will be at the center where parents can meet with professionals, receive
information and play with their children using methods provided by the center.
“One of the things that I want to say is that evaluations of programs of support and outreach have shown that there are significant, positive
changes that families make when they are able to come to a place like a family resource center, learn more about their children and build upon
the skills that they already have,” Banks emphasized. “One of the things that I really do want to emphasize is that we are a strength-based
organization. We build on the strengths of parents. We help them identify their strengths and build on those strengths. As I said before, we are
available for all families. When a baby is born, you don’t get a handbook. All families have questions about sleep, breastfeeding and other
arenting issues. We’re here for all families and not just those who have been identified as highrisk. One of the things that we have experienced
is that when you have a blend of families, they do learn from each other. What we really want to encourage is families building their own
networks of support and strengthening bonds within neighborhoods and within the community.”
The activities especially are designed to promote the healthy development of the child.
“My background is in nursing and early childhood brain development where I was an early childhood brain development specialist with the
Wisconsin Council on Children & Families since 1998,” said Jeanne Erickson, the volunteer director of Project Babies. “When we do activities
through Project Babies and the Family Resource Center, everything is brain-based. Our environment and the structured activities that we will
be having in the afternoons on a daily basis are all brain-based and brain development principled.”
And Banks emphasized that parents will be able to observe and learn what makes their children behave and learn the way that they do, which
will make them better-equipped parents.
“The general idea is to create the kind of environment where kids and their parents can move around and play,” Banks said. “It’s about the flow
and about what encourages play. What we know is that children learn through play. And so, we really do want to help parents understand that
also, that when they see their children, we learn from children as they play. If you watch a child, you learn an awful lot about how their brain
functions. We are going to have all kinds of sessions that come out of this family resource center that benefit families.”
The TNT Family Resource Center is for everyone.
“The programs of this resource center are available for all families as opposed to some that just focus on high-risk families,” Banks said. “We
are looking at bringing in fathers who are often overlooked and do not receive the attention that they really do need. And then retirement for
some older Americans is different now. Many of them are grandparents raising grandchildren.”
The TNT Family Resource Center is open for the business of building on the strengths of parents to raise healthy babies, children and adults too.