CLEVELAND — FamilySpace is a program that's hosted in Northeast Ohio libraries with a focus on giving families a safe place to unwind.
Launched in 2021, the program is a partnership between the Cuyahoga County Office of Early Childhood/Invest in Children, United Way of Greater Cleveland, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Cleveland Public Library and Family Connections.
“CPL and our library systems really are the perfect place for family spaces because they are known as a community resource to many,” said Alyssa Swiatek Tech Interim Associate Director of Invest in Children.
The spaces act as a hub that also help families receive free services based on their needs and interests.
“Families are coming to play, they're coming to connect not only to other families, but also to resources that are available outside of the library within the community,” Swiatek added.
In addition to connecting to resources, the FamilySpaces are also a place for the entire family.
“It's a space where we have scholars at the ages of zero to five years old where they can have a wonderful place to play, to learn to grow,” explained Charles Byrd, Director of Education at Cleveland Public Library’s Hough branch. “But not only are we empowering scholars, but we're empowering caregivers so that they can continue to be the wonderful educator that they are.”
And the connection also provides a much needed break as well. Courtney Foster, a participant of Family Space, says she’s found many benefits from the program, especially for herself.
“Just my mental health, it's really important because without it, I get frustrated. So it's nice to be able to sit down and just write your feelings and thoughts out without the kids getting into bad things outside.”
And though the program is still in the pilot phase, it's already been recognized nationally, recently awarded a National Achievement Award from the National Association of Counties.
“This is an award that is given to innovative programs that offer effective and supportive programming for children and families, Swiatek explained. “My hope for the Family Space program is that there are family spaces available in each and every neighborhood and community across Cuyahoga County that every family has access to this opportunity to connect with their families and their friends and build community.”