Providence Children's Museum - Families Together

An innovative therapeutic visitation program for court-separated families in need of special guidance, Families Together offers a variety of visitation services.  With the support and guidance of the Museum’s family therapists, parents engage in healthy play activities with their children where they improve communication and parenting skills. The program is highly valued by Rhode Island child welfare advocates and has changed visitation practices throughout the state.

Families Together is acclaimed nationally. In 2006, the program received MetLife Foundation and Association of Children’s Museums Promising Practice Replication Award.  This honor provides recognition and inspiration for children’s museums across the country to develop similar programs based on the Families Together model, using the tool kit the Museum created following receipt of the award.

Families Together was a top finalist for the prestigious Innovations in American Government Award, a program of the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in 2003. The award is administered in partnership with the council for Excellence in Government and recognizes innovative and effective government initiatives.  This award enabled Providence Children's Museum to publish Play With Your Kids, A How-To, Why-To Guide for Parents, written by the Museum's executive director, Janice O'Donnell. Play With Your Kids is available in English and Spanish to parents and caregivers as well as to social service agencies and others who work with families.

To learn more about the programs and services of Families Together at Providence Children’s Museum, contact Heidi Brinig, Families Together Program Director, at (401) 354-7387 ext. 1002.

Services Provided by Families Together

Regular visits between court-separated families are mandated by federal law and DCYF policy.  Families Together’s innovation is to use visitation as a vehicle for permanency planning, case assessment, connecting with kin, and parent education.

Family visitation may be the only time that the children see their parents and often other family members and provides an excellent opportunity for a skilled clinician to observe the relationships between parents and children, between siblings and among extended family.  Handled skillfully, visits can mitigate the trauma of family separation, assuring children that their parents continue to love them and motivating parents to learn better ways to care for their children.

Families Together clinicians coach parents in real time as they interact with their children and provide immediate feedback as parents practice new skills.

Families Together practice has shown that a purposeful, respectful visitation plan, responsive to the particular strengths and needs of the individuals, can increase the likelihood that a troubled family will achieve permanency in a timely manner.

Visitation locations are thoughtfully chosen to meet the needs of the family.  Visits frequently occur at the Children’s Museum, where the nurturing environment is specifically designed to foster parent/child interaction, or at Nina’s House, a warm and welcoming homelike setting designed by the Museum and staffed by Families Together clinicians.  Visits may also occur at other community locations, in the home, and, if safety is a concern, at DCYF visitation rooms.

Services are provided by Families Together through the referring Network or DCYF and include:

  • Therapeutic visitation for infants to 11-year-olds and their parents
  • Fostering kinship connections, especially for families whose cases are open 90 days or less
  • Case management and assessment
  • Parent education through visitation and through weekly parenting groups
  • Supervised visitation for sibling visits and pre-adoptive families
  • Assessment consultation
  • Visitation training for social service workers from DCYF and private agencies


Families Together Program Director: Heidi Brinig, (401) 354-7387 ext. 1002

Families Together Visitation Consultants:

Cheryl Lepre, (401) 528-3931 (Region I) and (401) 792-5072 (Region III)
Amber Massed, (401) 254-7042 (Region II) and (401) 528-3510 (Region IV)

To reach Nina's House, call (401) 354-7387.

Families Together is supported and funded in partnership with the Department of Children, Youth and Families.