Since 1971, IFS has a long history of working with disenfranchised youth and families of color. The youth and families we work with in urban Essex County, New Jersey, have experienced trauma, which has resulted in many behavioral issues. IFS works with youth, young adults and adults/parents to develop the educational, vocational, social and leadership skills they will need to become productive members of society and become adults who are capable of coping with the various stresses of inner-city life. Through IFS trauma-informed services including behavioral counseling and clinical programs, we emphasize independent decision-making, problem solving, and positive self-direction.
Our programs include:
- Homeless Prevention/Aftercare – This program provides case management services to young people who have left residential care and are actively living independent lives. The services are provided for one year, however, youth may return to the program after a year for additional support until the age of 21. Services consist of case management, access to resources and referrals, and Chafee Funds.
- Life Skills for Youth – This program provides independent living skills to youth who are aging out of the out of the child welfare system. specifically, Life Skills training includes a “Rites of Passage” component, which students must complete in order to graduate and move on to independent living.
- Survivors And Victims Empowered (SAVE) – IFS serves as the life-line to survivors and victims of violence. IFS has an extensive system of trauma informed services that support survivors of violent crimes with a special emphasis on young victims ages 6-17 years old. Our extended system of services provides immediate support as well as on going education, self-inspection and life skills training that are instrumental to helping victims cope with trauma. IFS uses best practice tools and services to assist victims to recover from historical, present and past emotional, physical and psychological trauma.
- East Orange Family Success Center – The goal of the EOFSC is to strengthen families and neighborhoods, by connecting families to needed services before they experience a problem such as child welfare involvement, housing eviction, chronic hunger, medical issues, and other problems associated with living in poverty. Specifically, we work with families and provide a series of resources, parenting trainings, and services for the benefit of the area’s children. Some of the families we work with include several generations. The EOFSC provides a variety of services for youth that encourage family bonding. Our goal is to use reading and literacy activities and tutoring programs to encourage parent-child bonding.
- Independence Community Development Corp. – IFS has been in the process of developing a comprehensive resident-driven neighborhood revitalization plan, with the goal of increasing the quality of life for families. We plan to improve the neighborhood by working with residents and investors to increase access to affordable housing, recreational facilities, affordable quality health care, jobs and enhanced public safety.
As a 48-year-old community-based organization, we have operated the East Orange Family Success Center (EOFSC) for over 11 years and have worked with over 3,850 families in that time. The staff has consistently sought and established partnerships that benefit the families it serves, many of whom are living at or below the poverty level.
Typically, IFS clients encounter a “break-through” and for the first time experience success and positive achievement. IFS’ ultimate goal is to help clients learn to value education, develop critical thinking skills to stay in school, and remain free of gang or judicial involvement, and to be self-sufficent. IFS seeks to help our parents and adult clients to break the generational cycle of dependency on government assistance, and to attain self-sufficiency and live productive lives.
IFS’s mission is to create pathways to success for at-risk and underserved residents in urban communities through innovative behavioral health, mental health, residential and educational programs.
Independence: A Family of Services, Inc. (IFS) is a community-based, nonprofit agency that has served at-risk youth and families in Essex County for over 46 years. IFS began in 1971 as Independence High School, a nonprofit organization established to provide supportive, alternative education services to high school dropouts in Newark. Over the years, the scope of the agency’s activities expanded as we continued to meet pressing needs within the community. With Independence High School remaining a key component of the organization, in 1992 our name was changed to Independence: A Family of Services, Inc. to reflect the organization’s growth to the multi-service agency we are today.
We serve children, teenagers, adults, and their families who reside primarily in Northern New Jersey and who are at substantial risk of dealing with abuse, neglect, or other mental health issues. We also help those at risk of failure in school, involvement or placement with the criminal justice system, out-of-home placement, current or future unemployment, underemployment and critical judgment errors.
At IFS, we have a long-standing “No Reject, No Eject” philosophy. This means we take on all clients who meet our funders’ criteria. No matter the challenge or the difficulty, we will work with them to find effective service interventions to encourage positive behaviors and successful outcomes. This commitment to each individual’s growth allows us to connect with our youth and families, offering them a range of experiences and services, that will encourage successful habits and personal development.
“I am, therefore we are; we are, therefore I am.”
This statement is the foundation of all we do at IFS, so that we always connect every client to a larger family and emphasize the larger family’s responsibility to each individual.
We make sure that every child, youth and family with whom we work understand that they must:
- Strive to build and maintain unity in their families and communities
- Act each day with a positive purpose that will build themselves, their family and their community to a state of wellness
- Work to define themselves positively and not allow others to define who they are or what they can become
- Be part of the positive energy that is responsible for building, re-building and maintaining healthy individuals, families and communities
- Pour creative and positive energy into all that they do
- Believe that their leaders (teachers, clergy, elders) will provide the direction required for them to become whole and healthy as individuals, families and communities
- Teach and show respect to elders and seek the wisdom of those who have come before them
By pursuing and instilling each of these values, we envision a world in which all of our young people are provided the skills, resources and support that they need to stand on their own, but are never alone.