Featured Program: AVANCE


Featured Program: AVANCE

Dr. Alicia La hoz


Love is our not-so-secret ingredient. We pour love into everything we do, because we know that one person can make a big difference. That’s what AVANCE does. One person impacting the lives of those around them – at home, in their community and around the world.

In 2012, our programs were nationally recognized as a best-practice model by the Administration for Children and Families. As a result, we received multiple inquiries from providers across the nation looking to replicate our model. Our team began thinking about how we might scale our marriage and family programs to cities beyond the Chicagoland region.

Our board, program directors, and advisors began to develop a blueprint to help us crystallize our vision. So began Family Bridges’ evolution from an organization primarily focused on direct delivery of marriage and family education services to an agency focused on catalyzing champions and providers by equipping, empowering, and encouraging them.

Eight years later, the program is now a consultation model for churches called AVANCE. We partner with local champions to deliver workshops in hundreds of locations including civic centers, schools, NFPOs, churches, and even correctional facilities. These AVANCE champions have embraced our vision and mission to be agents of change in their own communities by applying our approach of going where people are at. AVANCE has been successfully launched in Phoenix, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic and Spain.

In order to better measure the program’s impact, we launched a longitudinal evaluation of the program (CLEAR) in 2016. This unique quasi-experimental study includes extensive outcome measures for 10 parishes in Chicago. The program has now reached the halfway point. Although new study sites have recently opened and not all participating sites have been active long enough to generate comparison data, existing data allows for preliminary analysis. And the results are very promising. Analyses of current data indicate statistically significant increases over time in:

  • Attitude towards marriage
  • Relationship health and satisfaction
  • Parenting skills
  • Parish involvement
  • Satisfaction with the parish’s role in supporting marriage

Additionally, significant reduction was observed in measures of likelihood to divorce, with more dramatic reductions observed in participants at highest risk for divorce among our sample. The findings have also found that sustained involvement yields superior results over a single point intervention.

CLEAR also measures volunteer self-report on increase in skills related to leadership in the program and increase in capacity to serve in the church and the community. At this time, a statistically significant increase was observed in volunteer self-evaluation of leadership skills.

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