Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

JFS Orlando gives a hand up to a better life


Sometimes, all a person needs is a hand to grab onto to pull herself up to level ground. One very successful program at JFS Orlando, with a 78 percent success rate since it started 14 years ago, is the Family Stabilization Program (FSP). It is a preventative, six-month case-management program (with follow ups at one year and 18 months) designed for families to obtain self-sufficiency by teaching them critical skills and tools to resolve crises and avoid future hardships while achieving long-term stability. The program’s primary objectives are to improve money management skills, family functioning, mental stress, and to maintain or improve employability and housing while reducing stress. The program is led by skilled professionals who volunteer their time, and there is no cost to the participants.

“Not a hand out, but a hand up” is an expression used by many of its participants, including Cynthia Crouch, who told her story at the recent JFS Spring Brunch.

Crouch is truly a shining star of the program.

“The Family Stabilization Program catapulted my life, my career, and growth as a mother and woman exponentially,” she stated as she stood before a crowded room of JFS supporters.

Crouch was in an abusive marriage. She knew she needed to get out, but how could she? She was also raising their children—her husband told her she could leave, but she couldn’t take the children. She felt things were impossible. She had no self-esteem and felt inadequate.

“I didn’t know how to live on my own, balance a check book,” she said.

Crouch often saw Jewish Family Services’ staff set up in a vacant office where she worked and wondered if she could qualify for their help.

“One day I went in, humbly and honestly explained my situation and prayers were answered,” she said softly.

She was elated to learn that she qualified for the program and her life began to change immediately. With the help of JFS, she found a small apartment and FSP provided the first month’s rent and utility deposit along with food assistance and budgeting workshops that taught her how to live within her means and establish credit.

“These workshops are still in use in my life today,” Crouch stated.

JFS helped her apply for a student loan for college and taught her about loan amortization. She was able to stay in school and earn her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Rollins College and became a certified addictions professional.

“The encouragement, the hand up, the compassion, the life skills all helped me believe in myself in my darkest hours,” she shared.

Crouch had some devastating dark hours when she lost her son to a drug overdose. FSP counselors were right there for her and walked her through this very hard time in her life.

Crouch has remarried and is currently a second-year graduate student working toward becoming a licensed mental health counselor.

“But more importantly, I am a positive role model for my children. I am a strong, compassionate woman. I am a survivor, no longer a victim,” she stated proudly.

FSP empowered Crouch to empower herself. Participants have to do the work. FSP counselors are there to guide and instruct those enrolled in the six-month program. And those who complete the program become contributors to their community.

“I love who I have become,” Crouch said, “and I love that I get to pay it forward every day in the community through my profession.”


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