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Center for Strong Families


United Way of Pierce County wants to help struggling families. We know there is good work going on in our community and we want to help make it more successful, more efficient and more widespread. In 2015, we introduced the Center for Strong Families (CSFs) model to Pierce County. This model brings together existing services to give a family more comprehensive help and is achieving success in communities accross the nation. The model meets individuals where they are and crafts a plan that's right for them. It doesn't use a "one size fits all" approach and addresses multiple issues in one location. 

The first step is to stabilize the family. CSFs work to get them access to basic needs such as shelter and any public assistance they might qualify for.

From there CSFs work to help them move out of poverty, become financially stable, and realize their dreams, no matter what they might be. The model helps families:

  • “Earn it” - provide job training to help them earn a family-sustaining wage,
  • “Keep It” - get banked, reduce financial transaction costs, and take advantage of tax credits, and
  • “Grow It” - build wealth for families and their communities through increased savings, advanced education and buying homes and other assets. 

We don't just want families to get on their feet. We want them to stay on their feet. That means not just getting them a job to increase their income but helping them decrease their debt and improve their credit. It means connecting them to a job training opportunity and helping them access transportation, work clothes, and tutoring to be successful in that training. It is about forming a long-term relationship that helps them achieve their goals.


The CSF offers seamlessly integrated services modeled after the Center for Working Families (CWF) program developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Through extensive research, the Annie E. Casey Foundation found early on that the more that the services were bundled, the greater the chance for an individual to become financially stable. Because this is a relationship-based model, results are based on two to three year relationship with the clients. While the return on investment varies, most Centers see a significant return on investment over a 36-month period (sometimes less). The initial research showed a 400 percent ROI over 36-month period.


Centers for Strong Families are the result of unique collaborations of Pierce County agencies. The model incorporates common goals, best-practice service provision, and a partnership approach. Each Center for Strong Families is being developed organically according to local community’s needs and assets, but partners at each Center share a commitment to core concepts.

In 2016, Sound Outreach and Goodwill were the first two partners to be selected for CSFs. Sound Outreach serves as the lead organization for a Center that will incorporate multiple partners in the Hilltop area. Other providers include Bates Technical College, Tacoma Urban League, Tacoma Housing Authority, and Northwest Leadership Foundation, among others. Goodwill leads the Milgard Work Opportunity Center and serves as a single provider. 


Funding for this work has been provided in part by a recent grant from State Farm to Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), $200,000 of which will support efforts in Tacoma. Additional funding has also been provided by City of Tacoma, CHI Franciscan Health, MultiCare Health System, Washington State Employees Credit Union, Weyerhaeuser and Commencement Bank.


United Way will be seeking partners for other Centers. If you think your organization would be a good fit for a Center for Strong Families, contact Corey Mosesly at or 253-597-7491. The open application process for future Centers will take place in early 2017.