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Nonprofits Merge to Create Families Forward Virginia

Recently, Prevent Child Abuse Virginia, CHIP of Virginia and Early Impact Virginia merged to form a new 501(c)(3) organization, Families Forward. Families Forward is now Virginia’s leading organization dedicated to disrupting the cycle of child abuse, neglect and poverty. The organization will provide statewide leadership and unified support for 50+ Virginia affiliates through evidence-based and multi-generational prevention strategies.

We spoke with Lisa Specter-Dunaway, chief executive officer for Families Forward, to learn more about the organization’s transition. Lisa served as chief executive officer of CHIP of Virginia for 11 years before she was appointed to lead Families Forward. She has been working very closely with Johanna Schuchert, the long-time director of Prevent Child Abuse Virginia who will retire at the end of the FY18.

Lisa Specter-Dunaway, CEO of Families Forward and Johanna Schuchert, long-time executive director for Prevent Child Abuse Virginia (now part of Families Forward)

Lisa explained that the affiliates supported by Families Forward (CHIP, Circle of Parents, Healthy Families, Parents as Teachers and local chapters of Prevent Child Abuse Virginia) will continue to provide their model specific services and public education. “All of our community-based programs will continue to support families the same way they have done in the past. In local communities, the brands have equity, and communities have selected specific programming for specific reasons,” said Lisa. “Families Forward isn’t asking communities to do anything differently, but instead plans to provide additional infrastructure and support to help strengthen the affiliate organizations to provide the best care possible.”

Prevent Child Abuse Virginia, CHIP of Virginia and Early Impact Virginia have a long history of working together to accomplish a common goal. The more they worked in unison, especially around state and federally funded early childhood home visiting, the more sense it made to join together. Support from the funding community – including The Community Foundation, Robins Foundation and the Dominion Foundation – has aided with strategic planning and implementation.

Lisa explained that conducting a merger like this is not an easy task; however, the board and staff are encouraged by the unified vision. “Egos had to be checked at the door and transparency and organizational trust were key,” said Lisa. “At the end of the day, we had to remind ourselves that the end goal is to strengthen Virginia families, two generations at a time. Together we will impact policy and access to more coordinated services.”

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