UWCJ's Newest Initiative: Little Hands, Big Futures

United Way of Central Jersey Launches “Little Hands, Big Futures”

Unique Initiative -- featuring community resource line -- fills service gaps for caregivers of children ages 0-5


Milltown, N.J. – The United Way of Central Jersey (UWCJ) launched the Middlesex County Alliance for Child and Family Success “Little Hands, Big Futures” initiative, a network of high-quality service providers offering complete, integrated care management for under-resourced families with young children ages 0-5, at a meeting this week.

Parents and caregivers who need services for their children ages 0-5 can call the UWCJ Community Resource Line, 732-724-5437 (KIDS) where a bilingual Care Manager will conduct a confidential assessment and provide a menu of services based on the family’s unique situation. From there, the Care Manager will make referrals and connect the caller to services, including child care, developmental screenings, housing resources, medical care, immigration/citizenship assistance, counseling, food assistance and much more. The Care Manager offers guidance, helps families navigate services and follows up to ensure that all of their needs are met.

Alliance member organizations are completely immersed in their communities, and experienced in serving those communities’ needs,” said Gloria Aftanski, President and Chief Professional Officer of UWCJ. ”We are truly working together achieve successful outcomes for families with the greatest need. And, parent voice is incorporated into all aspects of planning and service delivery.” Assemblywoman Yvonne Lopez (D-Middlesex), who spoke at the meeting, noted that the Little Hands, Big Futures “family and child success plan … is continually monitored to ensure ultimate success … empowers parents and their children and ensures generational success.”

The Little Hands, Big Futures initiative was driven by UWCJ’s Needs Assessment of Middlesex County’s population ages 0-5. Key findings were that, while many social services and supports are available, many residents are unaware of these services or struggle to find what they need because services are unorganized and fragmented. As a result, families end up lost in a “service jungle” - with no idea where to turn. Little Hands, Big Futures was created to combat these issues and to fill gaps in service. ”The importance of coordinated support for families with young children cannot be overstated,” said speaker Sanford Starr, Assistant Commissioner, Division of Family and Community Partnerships, NJ Department of Children and Families. Starr added, “The work being undertaken by the Alliance has the potential to serve as a model for cross system and cross sector collaboration to improve service provision for families.”

“The ultimate goal of Little Hands, Big Futures is to help children get what they need in order to grow up safe, healthy and ready to learn, as well as for parents to be confident in using the Alliance,” said Lawrence P. O’Connell, Chair, UCWJ Board of Trustees.

“Little Hands, Big Futures” complements the services that will be provided by UWCJ’s new Financial Opportunity Center in Perth Amboy, which offers an integrated set of services for families in need, including employment services, financial education and coaching, and assistance applying for government and other benefits.

Parents and guardians of children ages 0-5 in need of services can call 732-724-5437 (KIDS) to connect with a UWCJ Care Manager for a confidential assessment. For more information, visit www.uwcj.org/lhbf.