Lauren Fein works to bring the community together one family at a time. Though she grew up in Massachusetts, the 32-year-old has roots in South Philadelphia. Fein found her calling in social work and after completing graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania, she decided to give back to her adoptive city. Now as the supervisor for the Family Empowerment Services program of United Communities of Southeast Philadelphia,
Fein is leading other caseworkers who provide services for families from the neighborhood to help them meet goals they wouldn’t be able to otherwise. One such program is the distribution of donated backpacks filled with school supplies to child-serving agencies.
What is the Family Empowerment Services Program?
We provide DHS prevention services and work with any families with children in the home who have a goal that they want to meet. For example, if a family has just moved to the neighborhood and doesn’t know how to enroll their child in school, one of our case managers can guide them through that process. We go out a few times a month to work with families on whatever their goals are. We’re really just pointing them in the right direction and making sure they have the tools to achieve those goals.
How many family do you help regularly?
At any given time we’re actively working with around 50 families in various stages of outreach. I just looked in the database and we’ve had 250 families referred so far this year. It doesn’t mean that we’ve ended up working with all of them, we’re a voluntary service and sometimes the families don’t want it, but I would say our annual complicity is around 300 families.
What got you interested in working for Family Empowerment?
I was working on my second year internship at a sister agency in Point Breeze and I was really interested in being a supervisor. I connected with United Communities and saw that they were doing great work and loved that they were doing this voluntary type work where they were working with parents and meeting them where they’re at and working towards their goals. I thought it was really unique and was really excited that not only did this agency have a great program but had an opening for exactly what I wanted to be doing. I got really lucky.
What is something you want the South Philadelphia community to know about the program?
I just want them to know we’re available to them. We really can work with any family that has children in the home and has goals. We have bilingual case managers and interpreters because I know that this is an extremely diverse community, culturally, linguistically, just every demographic which is amazing.
What has been the most rewarding thing about being at Family Empowerment?
For me, any time I get to reassure someone or point them in the right direction, whether it’d be a staff member, a parent, a guardian or whoever’s calling me, if I’m able to hear them out or give them a resource that’s rewarding in that moment. Overall, being able to do work that helps improve people’s lives in a way that is guiding, that is really rewarding.
When was the moment when you realized that you were making a difference in the community?
I don’t think it’s one moment. For us, every kid who is getting to school more regularly or parent who is connected to the appropriate benefits so they can provide a good life for their children, those are little things that I don’t know if it makes a difference in the community as a whole but, every one of those family units that we have an impact on, they together strengthen the community.
– Text and images by Arielle Arlan and Kathryn Stellato