Fighting for Strong Futures: spark*5's Pilot Year

July 18, 2018 | Meredith Hershner

spark*5 (strong parents and ready kids by age five) finished its pilot year on June 30! spark*5 is an innovative place-based collaborative, using a multi-generational approach to work with vulnerable families with young children and break the cycle of poverty in zip code 52404 neighborhoods.

Beginning in October 2017, Eastern Iowa Women’s Health Center started referring eligible first-time families to spark*5. Once the referral takes place, a Connector reaches out to the family to enroll them in the initiative and helps parents set goals and access existing programs and services to support their goals.

A few highlights include:

  • 16 families enrolled
  • 4 babies born
  • 113 face-to-face visits with a Connector
  • 63 referrals to other community resources

Service mapping is one way the initiative is beginning to change the way services revolve around families. One example of this is Waypoint Services that took the lead in building out a housing hub to address other housing needs of families.

spark*5 has also been part of other service innovations. With Linn County Community Care Coalition (Linn County C3), spark*5 has helped develop a community-wide resource and referral network to support families. spark*5 and Linn County C3, along with other agencies, are building out and tracking family goals within a software system that supports case management.

Another milestone included hiring a second Connector at the end of June in preparation for scaling up this coming fiscal year.

Families have been excited about the opportunity to participate in this new way of doing things and to have someone support their goals. They are embracing this new opportunity and one family said, “I like working with spark*5 because they help me get in touch with things I don't know how to do! Super helpful and supportive of me and my family's dreams.”

Overall, this year has been successful as we’ve learned much about partnering in new and innovative ways with families and agencies throughout the community. We are looking forward to continuing to achieve milestones, supporting more new families, and building a more cohesive network of support for families.

To learn about the spark*5 initiative, visit More updates coming soon!