Workforce Development Efforts in Maine are Putting People to Work

Families Forward offers job training and on-the job-experience, with an emphasis on education, skills development, wellness planning and employment.

Families Forward is the new name for Fedcap Inc.’s program to provide an array of services to individuals receiving Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) benefits throughout the state of Maine. Formerly known as Breaking the Cycle, Families Forward offers job training and on-the job-experience, with an emphasis on education, skills development, wellness planning and employment focused on assisting program participants in achieving their long-term goals.

The name change reflects the program’s emphasis not just on individuals but on families. “The new name better captures our two generational approach,” said Serena Powell, Executive Director of Fedcap Inc. – Serving Maine. “We want families to have more economic security and savings, so that their children can go to college or enter job training programs. We want folks in our programs to achieve meaningful careers, and the new name lets everyone understand that the end game is about the future of families we serve.”

Other recent changes also help to clarify the vision at the heart of Families Forward. The program’s Career Plan, formerly known as the Family Contract Amendment, is designed so that participants can set goals for various pathways, based on their evolving needs, as they progress towards their long-term career goals.

“We wanted to emphasize that we are about getting our people on a career path versus just finding a job,” Serena said. “We want folks to earn family sustaining wages, and we want them to engage in credentialed job training program or go to college, where they have opportunities for advancements in growing industries here in Maine, including health care, hospitality manufacturing and IT.”

Families Forward offers economic literacy classes to help families create educational savings accounts for their children. The agency has also added several new positions. Including a Director of Assessment and Education Services and a Director of New Mainer Services, to focus on growing resources for the state’s growing immigrant and refugee populations. Close to 35 percent of those served by Families Forward are immigrants or refugees from about 25 different countries, mostly in Africa and the Mideast.

The new director will focus on ensuring that services are meeting the needs of New Mainers, such as learning English skills and adapting to life in Maine. One Families Forward partner, Catholic Charities of Maine, have embedded cultural navigators throughout the 16 Families Forward offices in Maine. The cultural navigators are bilingual, and work with people who have been in this country less than three years. “They work beyond our traditional hours, providing another layer of case management and support for entire families,” Serena said. “They might take a family to get furniture or look for an apartment on a weekend. They help with any resource a family might need.”

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