Catholic Social Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia (CSS) was one of three national programs singled out to receive the 2011 Catholic Charities USA/Annie E. Casey Family Strengthening Award, which was presented during the Sept. 18-21 Catholic Charities USA Annual Gathering and Poverty Summit held in Fort Worth, Texas.

In its application CSS highlighted the work of three of its family service centers within the City of Philadelphia: the Northeast Family Service Center, the Southwest Family Service Center and Casa del Carmen.

At CSS, the Strengthening Families Program is a 15-week course that is both helpful and down-to earth.

Videos, books articles or games are used to learn about good parenting in a friendly and informal atmosphere that promotes adult learning through active participation.

Classes are free and voluntary and children also come with their parents. After a joint meal the adults meet with parenting facilitators and the children with teachers, and then they come back together to put into practice what was learned.

Casimiro, who took the course with his young son at the Southwest Family Center, could be a poster child for what CSS is attempting to do.

A single father, he came to CSS in 2007 after his then-infant son, Casimiro Jr., was diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome because of the alcohol and drug addiction of his now-deceased mother.

Casimiro and son

Casimiro and his son have benefitted from the family-strengthening programs offered through Catholic Social Services.


A major theme of the Strengthening Families Program curriculum is to increase the quality and quantity time between parents and children and discourage unwanted behaviors.

“Before I came to class I was putting up walls with my son and had withdrawn from him when his behavior was bad,” Casimiro said. “Through the SPP classes I learned that a parent must address the bad behavior but still not hold back from loving his child unconditionally. We hold regular family meetings now, which has improved our family life. The tools I acquired have made a big difference in the relationship with my son.”

“Casimiro is a very dedicated father who consistently and enthusiastically attended the Family Strengthening Program and encouraged a friend to attend with him,” said facilitator Fran Spross. “It has been an amazing and beautiful thing to witness this father-son journey.”

“We have embraced a family strengthening model rooted in not simply doing good things for families, but helping them to do those things for themselves,” said Amy Stoner, director of Community-Based Prevention Services within CSS. “We do more with less by pooling resources across sites and cross-training staff to utilize the unique skill sets of each. In the face of diminishing funds we effectively incorporate community organizations who are actively engaged with our clients on site as part of our delivery service.”

Among other programs offered at the center, are a Homeless Prevention Program; an Emergency Food and Shelter Program, a Prenatal Education and Support Program, a Job Training Program and Out of School Time programs.

“By connecting families to the support and opportunities they need to be economically stable, these programs are helping people build better lives, and, as a result, strengthen communities across the country,” said Father Larry Snyder, President of Catholic Charities USA.

A delegation representing Catholic Charities USA and the Annie E. Casey Foundation will visit Philadelphia Oct. 19-21 for a first-hand look at how the programs are conducted.

The Catholic Charities USA/Annie E. Casey Family Strengthening Award is funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a $2.5 billion foundation established in 1948 by James E. Casey, the founder of UPS (United Parcel Services, Inc.), along with his two brothers and sister to honor the memory of their mother.  Casimiro Sr. and Casimiro Jr. are perfect examples of what their foundation is all about. Much like Annie E. Casey was a young widow who struggled to support four children; very much like many of the people assisted by CSS.

The award was also given to programs in Anchorage, Alaska and Phoenix, Ariz.; each of the three received a $25,000 prize.