For more than 60 years, the Montgomery-based Family Guidance Center has been meeting the ever-changing needs of families with a wide array of services that provide strength and support.
The Family Guidance Center of Alabama, a non-profit organization that got its start in Montgomery in 1959, has expanded over the years to eight locations across the state and, with a staff of 260, provides services in all 67 counties. “We touch the lives of over 40,000 families every year through our programs,” said Dr. Walter White, the center’s Executive Director.
“We were founded to provide counseling services for children, couples and families who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it,” White explained. That part of the mission hasn’t changed. “We operate on a sliding fee scale in regard to our counseling services, and that’s based on income and the number of people in the family. That’s the only one of our many services that has a fee attached.”
Numerous other services, however, are funded through grants and contracts. These include parenting education services, marriage education programs, as well as early childhood education programs and services. White said, “We also have a large contract with the Alabama Department of Human Resources for us to provide childcare education and training services for childcare providers in 18 counties in the Montgomery and in the Dothan regions.” And the Center manages a subsidized childcare program in 41 counties through another Alabama DHR contract. Eligible families are able to receive childcare assistance for parents to work or go to school.
Job training programs are in the service mix too. Some programs are focused on young adults ages 16 to 24, while others help people make the transition from government assistance to the workforce.
The Buffalo Rock Distribution Center is one of the area employers that benefits from this service. Shae Harris, Employee Experience Leader, said that her company has been working with the Family Guidance Center since 2018. “I go to career fairs or participate in virtual career fairs,” she said. If the Family Guidance Center knows of a good candidate, she’ll get an email from the Center and will set up an interview. In addition, businesses can contract with the Family Guidance Center to offer an Employee Assistance Program, which provides confidential counseling services for their employees and family members. Whitfield Foods, one of the companies that has established a contract with the center, has found the services helpful both for employee retention and morale. HR Manager Brittney Wingate said that Whitfield Foods has a policy that if employees have a substance abuse issue, they have to complete three sessions with the Family Guidance Center before they can return to work. “We’re able to retain our employees if they’re able to successfully complete the program,” Wingate said.
As another example, when an employee passed away, Wingate was able to reach out for resources. “The Family Guidance Center was able to set up Zoom calls to talk one-on-one with a counselor if needed,” she added.
“Throughout all of our programs is a common thread that is focused on trying to strengthen and support families,” White explained. “When families are able to economically support themselves better, that helps to strengthen families. When they’re able to access quality childcare services so that they can work or they can go to school, that helps to strengthen families. When early childhood programs are needed so that children have a quality early childhood experience that helps them to be ready for school, that helps to strengthen families.”
The Center’s growth over the last several decades has occurred as its staff tries to meet the ever-changing needs of families. “We’ve tried to be as responsive as possible in helping to bring quality, caring services to areas that are new needs for children and families,” White said. “If it’s a program that can help to strengthen families, and if it’s something that we have experience and expertise in and can do a quality job with delivering those services, then we’re going to try our best to be able to bring that quality service to families.”
“Throughout all of our programs is a common thread that is focused on trying to strengthen and support families.” - Dr. Walter White