My name is Maria Brennan. I have been the Program Manager at the United Way of United Way's The Family Center for a little over three years. I oversee the day-to-day operations of The Family Center, including supervision of staff, programming, including evidence-based parenting groups, billing, scheduling, and I also provide direct service to clients often experiencing many complexities. I had previously been with another agency for 6.5 years. This position appealed to me because it wasn't restricted to serving a specific population, other than providing services to families with dependent children under 18. If a single person were referred to us, while we wouldn't necessarily do a complete intake, we would take specific information to find the appropriate resources to which to refer the individual. I think this is one of my favorite parts of this agency and position - we can provide some helpful resources to everyone who is asking for help, and in that process, even if we can't help meet the need immediately, anyone who comes to our Family Center for assistance is treated with respect and dignity.
One of my hobbies is that I'm an accomplished home chef. I have found that feeding others meets an emotional need, and I've incorporated that home cooking into our in-person groups (pre-COVID). It helps people feel cared for and more likely to open up during the group process after having been fed a home-cooked meal. If I could do one thing to make a big, positive change, it would be to help local and state governments identify empty buildings that could be transformed into affordable housing units. There are so many barriers to finding stable housing across Massachusetts, and this is often the primary reason people reach out to us for help. The times when I've felt I've made a difference in this position have been when I've facilitated Nurturing Fathers groups. I've been able to create a trusting relationship with the participants, and that has helped participants feel safe enough to face into what brought them to the group. I've been able to then advocate with other child-serving systems when appropriate for increased visitation up to and including reunification. When families have completed the reunification process, it is extremely gratifying. We find that these families tend to stay in contact with The Family Center, even if it's just a phone call to let us know how they're doing. I think anyone who is interested in a career in human services would benefit from working at The Family Center, because they would be able to experience a wide variety of systems issues, direct service, community outreach and other skills that would build a resume.