COFI is a catalyst for positive change.
It is a center and a resource for Family Focused Organizing, leadership development and community building focused on the well being of children, youth and families. Founded in 1995, COFI is driven by a deep commitment to social justice and grounded in the time-tested principles, strategies, accomplishments, and approaches of community organizing.
COFI helps build family-supportive communities.
By encouraging parents—primarily mothers—first to address their personal goals and dreams, COFI helps parents recognize that skills honed as a parent can translate to leadership skills in the larger community. It helps them realize that many day-to-day family struggles are rooted in public policies that have public remedies. Parents who become leaders can create change within themselves, apply what they have learned to their communities, then to the larger systems that affect families, and beyond.
Stronger family voices transform communities.
COFI works to build the power and voice of low–income and working families at all levels of civic life. Through our intensive and systematic leadership development and organizing process, parents develop skills, confidence, and the organized power to win improvements in schools, communities, and public policies.
Family Focused Organizing reaches people far outside the centers of power. Parents in city neighborhoods are now connecting with one another in new ways, and taking strategic action that gets results.
We organize low-income parents of color (mostly mothers and grandmothers) who, in turn, have built local and citywide organizations that are fighting for change around issues affecting families, and attracting attention nationally to their innovative policy solutions and organizing steps.
Parents create real change in their communities.
- Won the removal of “zero tolerance” language from the Chicago Public Schools, replaced with a philosophy of “restorative justice”
- Won the return of recess in Chicago for 266,000+ elementary students
- Created the Head Start Ambassadors program which has knocked on 115,000 doors and reached 63,000+ families across Illinois about the importance of early learning and available resources
- Created the Food Ambassador program to connect families to free summer meals
- Trained more than 500 parents on restorative justice in the schools
- Helped revamp and simplify the City of Chicago’s Ready to Learn preschool application process
- Eliminated suspensions for young students 2nd grade and younger in Chicago
- Parents’ recommendations infused into 3 federal grants to the State of Illinois on improving access to quality early learning programs
- Eliminated asset limits for public aid recipients
- Lowered the maximum number of days a student can be suspended from 10 to 5 in Chicago
- Won hundreds of thousands of dollars for playgrounds
- Helped pass Minimum Wage increases
- Banned silent lunches in Chicago Public Schools
- Created the Parent Peace Center model and operate Peace Centers in schools across the city – providing services to 500+ students
- Testified in the U.S. Congress on school culture and discipline
- Improved the environmental health of schools
- Created fitness classes and walking clubs
- Created and won support for the Walking Preschool Bus program
- Got payroll cards regulated
- Piloted a Matched Savings Circle with parents
- Expanded financial literacy programs