A Year of Exploring Relationships That Work

Breakthrough uses its Network Model to build a framework of caring relationships for youth and adults, providing them with support and opportunities they would not otherwise have. It is a groundbreaking approach to providing lasting, impactful support to people who struggle to overcome issues like poverty, homelessness and addictions.

This year, Breakthrough will highlight its Network Model through a series of articles, each one exploring a different relationship in one person’s Network. We hope to give readers a more in- depth look at how a system of positive connections can transform lives, and how everyone can help Breakthrough build these strong Networks.

The Network Model at Work

Breakthrough staff persons help youth and adults establish and strengthen ties with a variety of people who, in turn, offer ongoing, positive help. Tutors, mentors, pastors, a family member or caseworkers are all examples of people who might make up a piece of someone’s Network.

Breakthrough’s creation of the Network Model came about as staff tried to find best practices for helping youth in East Garfield Park. For decades, the majority of after-school and youth programs have used a youth-mentor or youth-tutor approach. Although studies can document positive outcomes, these type of relationships typically take a year to grow into meaningful connections. If a volunteer steps down after just a year of service or sooner, which is common, the affect can be devastating for the youth in need of positive influences.

The Youth and Family Services program has evolved to a point where staff members, volunteer coaches, volunteer tutors, pastors, family members, teachers and mentors work directly with the student, and with each other. This process creates a rich tapestry of experience, support, skill, ideas and connections with many benefits.

For instance, if someone in a supportive role leaves because of a job transfer or family commitment, there is minimal impact to the stability of a student’s circle of advocates. The Network Model also helps protect those who volunteer their time by helping to alleviate guilt that can come with having to end their engagement.

Having many people who support the same person is a benefit with far-reaching effects. Not only is there strength in numbers, each youth is also supported with a well-rounded variety of skills and ideas. Further, each youth has access to the circle of people known by all the people in his or her Network. This interconnection of multiple networks is the key to expanded opportunities that can translate into an internship, education, or job.

Now that the Model is a successful and integral part of the Youth and Family Services Program, Breakthrough has begun to implement it in the Adult Services Program.