The Family Partnership is rich in history, and its story is reflective of the important and unique role that the private, not-for-profit human service system has played in this country. The Family Partnership was founded in 1878 as the Minneapolis Humane Society to fill a glaring gap in services to children. Like most early nonprofit organizations, it was formed by volunteers. Over the years the organization grew and changed with the times. Ours is a story of anticipation, adaptation, and innovation.
Through the 1900s, the organization stayed at the forefront in addressing the emerging needs of a rapidly changing society, often by promoting collaboration and leading partnerships. For instance, the organization was a charter member of the area’s first “Community Chest” (precursor to the United Way) to promote cooperation, eliminate duplication, and encourage charitable giving. The organization deployed visiting nurses, and founded the first Big Brothers and Boys Clubs, all of which were spun off and still serve youth today. Over the decades, as children and families suffered the fallout from two world wars and the impact of the Great Depression, The Family Partnership stepped up with innovations such as a child guidance clinic, psychiatric social workers that moved “social work” beyond food/clothing/shelter to include family support, and post-war trauma and marital therapies, all of which broke new ground. In the 1940s-50s, we were involved in finding child care and housing for the new breed of working mothers, assistance for war widows and their families, housing for returned GIs and their families, employment for war refugees, and marriage counseling for couples who found that the war had changed them.
In the second half of the 20th Century, The Family Partnership continued its legacy of pioneering work. Through the 60s and 70s, rising divorce and juvenile delinquency rates were major family issues of the times, and The Family Partnership added services to address them. We were the first family service agency in the country to provide counseling for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals and families (1975), and services for women and youth escaping from sex trafficking (1978), both of which continue today. In the 1980s and 1990s, we provided leadership on a range of public policy issues including children’s mental health, school reform, the impact of tax policy on low-income families, and the affordable housing crisis in the Twin Cities. Over the last 25 years, we’ve also developed innovative models of grassroots leadership, neighborhood and family-centered organizing, family strengths research, and civic engagement that help the community’s most marginalized people gain a voice in shaping solutions to the problems affecting their children and families.
Now in the early decades of the 21st century, the pressures undermining the strength of the family have grown to epidemic proportions. To address a widening gap between rich and poor, the increasing poverty of women, children, and minorities, and mounting urban and suburban problems, The Family Partnership has responded with programs and initiatives squarely focused on reducing and preventing poverty, expanding opportunity for immigrant families and families of color, and healing the damaging effects of poverty and adverse experiences on children, youth, and families. In an increasingly racially and ethnically diverse community, The Family Partnership has taken intentional action to reach out to diverse communities and new immigrants with culturally appropriate and multilingual services.
In 2010, the board of directors voted to change the organization’s name from Family & Children’s Service to The Family Partnership. On January 1, 2011 The Family Partnership merged with Reuben Lindh Family Services, expanding our reach to prenatal and preschool ages, and deepening our impact in educational achievement. The merger was quickly followed by significant expansions in our early childhood programming, including the establishment of drop-in childcares at local government service centers as well as expansion of mental health services to our childcare centers and other programming.
Over the course of 139 years, more than one million people have come to The Family Partnership for help and hope. Our story is one of courage, innovation, and leadership. We have repeatedly led the charge to influence crucial reforms that allow children and families from all circumstances to flourish. Our program models have been consistently recognized for innovation and effectiveness including:
- The National Agency of the Year award from the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities
- Strengthening Families National Award from United Neighborhood Centers of America and Annie E. Casey Foundation,
- The Foundation for the Improvement of Justice, and a long list of other national, state and local awards spanning the decades.