In response to the economic recession of 2008, Barbara’s determination to make a difference grew stronger. The program extended its reach to Columbus, Ohio, and based on the remarkable success of its original mission, the Siemer Institute was officially founded in 2011. Despite the recession having ended by 2011, many families, particularly those already living in poverty, continued to face significant challenges.
Acknowledging the need to extend their impact beyond their home communities of Columbus and Sarasota, the Siemers embarked on a nationwide initiative with the primary goal of preventing family homelessness, housing instability, school instability, and reducing school mobility among low-income families. Since 2011, the Siemer Institute has established collaborative partnerships with 76 organizations nationwide.
The root of the proficiency issue was realized. Each time a child moves schools, it results in detrimental academic outcomes. Barbara realized she needed to do something. If she could help people by providing support to keep them in their homes, could they turn things around?
This thought led Barbara – with the support of her husband, Al – to develop a program in 2003 with the United Way of Sarasota and Jewish Family and Children’s Services of the Suncoast. With the United Way of Sarasota serving as a funding partner and matching the Siemers’ investment and Jewish Family and Children’s Services of the Suncoast providing care coordination for families, this effort eventually became the basis for the Siemer Institute Family Stability Initiative.
In the first year, the program served 50 families with one social worker. The following year, another social worker was hired. More and more people were hired each year after that, and the program grew from a $50,000 investment to $450,000. The need was profound.
When the recession arrived in 2008, Barbara realized she needed to do more. With Al’s encouragement, the program expanded to Columbus, Ohio, and five more cities in Florida and six in Ohio. Based on the success of the original work, the Siemer Institute was officially launched in 2011.
While the recession had officially ended by 2011, many families, particularly those living in poverty, faced significant challenges. Recognizing that the need extended beyond the two communities they were initially serving, the Siemers launched their initiative on a nationwide scale, with the primary aim of promoting the 2Gen approach, which addresses the needs of parents (or caregivers) and children simultaneously. Additionally, the Siemer Institute is dedicated to preventing unplanned moves, acknowledging that housing instability and school instability have a lasting impact on low-income families. Since 2011, the Siemer Institute has continued to expand by identifying new potential partners.
The Siemer Institute leads this work from Columbus, and United Way affiliates across the country oversee programs locally. As a national organization, we work through the United Way network because we believe it is the lead organization in each community that identifies community needs and assembles resources and partners to address those needs. Each United Way serves as our funding partner and on-the-ground expert to identify and select programs within their communities that receive support from the Siemer Institute.
Our network actively engages in a collaborative impact model, sharing best practices to align successes with the goal of effecting national change. We conduct research to continually inform and enhance the work of our partners, using our outcomes as a compass. Moreover, as a nationwide community, we foster ongoing opportunities for our partners to connect and learn from one another.
At the Siemer Institute, we understand when to take the lead with our experiences and expertise and when to step back. We actively encourage our program partners to voice their opinions, and we prioritize collaborative decision-making. Our approach is far from one-size-fits-all, as we recognize that each community possesses unique needs. That’s why we provide our partners with funding to support direct expenses, coaches, or care coordinators, ensuring the greatest impact. Our partners, in turn, match Siemer Institute funding with external resources to create sustainable programs.
The Siemer Institute’s efforts are led by an accomplished staff. At the helm, Kimberly Dorniden, President and National Executive Director, serves the Siemer Institute through a wealth of experience in facilitating positive, transformational change for human service organizations. Kim leads with a strategic focus to build strong collaborations that achieve positive outcomes and collective impact. She is passionate about the innovative work of the network and is driven by the promise of providing children with the opportunity to succeed by helping families stay in their homes, grow their incomes, and thrive.
Barbara and Al’s proximity to the work is unique among funders. Barbara has built foundational real-world knowledge and expertise into the Siemer Institute that continues to shape the direction of the organization. With the Siemer’s passion to help families become stable at the forefront, we aim to expand the initiative into every city across the nation to help as many children as possible.Meet Our Team
With the organization now in its 11th year, Barbara never envisioned that the Siemer Institute would become what it is today. She never dreamed she could live a life where she could help so many people live more stable lives. For Al, his dream for the initiative is to serve one million children in his lifetime. Now, that dream is even more crucial, as families are reeling from the emotional, physical, and economic impacts of the pandemic.
To make this dream a reality, we need more partners across the nation to deliver our Family Stability Initiative in their communities. In 50 years, people won’t remember who started the Siemer Institute. They will remember the parents who increased their earning capacity to have a stable footing, the thriving students who are thriving in school because they feel safe, and the local programs that have funding to ensure hundreds of families in their community are on an upward trajectory.
The power of the Siemer Institute’s Family Stability Initiative lies in the principle that we are better together. Together, we will build more stable lives for families.