"Neighbor To Family works. It does make a difference and it will save states not only money but the harm they are perpetrating on our children and families." - Gordon Johnson, Founder and first President and CEO of Neighbor To Family, on CNN Headline News
During the seven years that Gordon Johnson headed the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), he repeatedly saw children being removed from their home and parents, and then torn from their brothers and sisters when placed in foster homes. He was haunted by the feeling that "the child welfare system is supposed to help troubled children and families, not make situations worse."
Johnson became convinced that the separation of siblings reduced the likelihood of reunification with parents, impaired a child's ability to bond with adoptive parents, and increased the need for treatment of emotional and behavioral disorders.
Johnson left DCFS in 1990 to become President of Jane Addams Hull-House Association in Chicago. There, in 1994, he developed a new approach to foster care. The essential ingredients of his concept, which he called the "Neighbor To Neighbor" program, were:
- Sibling groups are placed together in a single home;
- Birth parents are held accountable for the long-term well being of their children;
- The role of the foster parent is professionalized; and,
- Planning for permanency is a consistent, purposeful team effort.
In 2000, Johnson took the components of Neighbor To Neighbor and incorporated them into a new 501(c)3 child welfare agency, Neighbor To Family, Inc. where he served as President/CEO until his passing in 2015. Headquartered in Daytona Beach, Neighbor To Family currently serves communities in Florida, Georgia, and Maryland.