The term family life services is typically used to describe a variety of social-welfare, health-care, and supportive services provided to vulnerable families. Family life services are usually offered by public and private social-welfare agencies as well as other religious, community, and health-care organizations. These programs often vary in scope and purpose, but may include services provided by a hospital to families of ill or dying family members, supportive services for single parents, and general counseling and economic support for families dealing with job disruption or ongoing issues stemming from poverty. The types of services offered by a specific family life program will differ according to the mission and resources of its sponsoring organization.
In some communities, private and public social-welfare agencies may offer comprehensive family life services to families who face significant challenges, such as unemployment, an unplanned pregnancy, or problems with addiction or abuse. These families may benefit from case management and assistance in finding sources of help with housing, food, and medical care. In many cases, family life services also includes counseling for individual family members as well as the family as a whole.
Family life services may also be offered by organizations that have a narrower focus. For example, some organizations may limit services offered to specific populations, such as single mothers. In these programs, single mothers may be provided with parenting support, job training, and assistance with budgeting and other life skills. Some hospitals recognize the special needs of families who are caring for a chronically ill family member and may provide supportive services such as counseling and education to these families. Organizations that offer family life services may provide emergency help or may ask that participants commit to completing a lengthy program that could last for months or even years.
When choosing a family life service, individuals and families should first identify whether the organization offering assistance is actually able to address a family's specific challenges. Another thing to consider is that family life services may be offered by religious organizations. In some cases, the sponsoring organization does not integrate its religious principles into its family life services. Some organizations do, however, include a religious or spiritual component in their services that may present problems for some families or individuals. Ideally, families who approach these organizations should clarify from the beginning whether religious differences will prevent the family from getting the help needed.