Bryan Samuels Honored by Family Focus

Award for contributions to family and child well-being

Bernice Weissbourd, the 95-year-old founder of Family Focus, was clear about why Chapin Hall Executive Director Bryan Samuels was the 2018 recipient of the award that bears her name.

“Bryan epitomizes the qualities that define greatness,” Weissbourd said at Family Focus’ anniversary gala on May 15. “A sharp analytical mind, strong values, a big heart, a deep well of compassion, and a commitment to action.”

Samuels accepted the award at the organization’s largest annual gala to date. Family Focus is a Chicago-based nonprofit founded in 1976 and focused on promoting the well-being of children and families. Their approach is community-based and multi-generational, and they operate seven direct service centers in greater Chicago.

In accepting the Bernice Weissbourd Award for Family Support, Samuels emphasized the pivotal role Weissbourd played in shaping his own career. “As a 22-year-old graduate student I was working with Family Focus in North Lawndale, very much like the neighborhood I grew up in Chicago—with concentrated poverty, few jobs and lots of single mothers.”

He met Weissbourd at that time, and she affirmed his experience and his views. “What I learned that summer is that my experience gave me the benefit of insight,” said Samuels. “There are plenty of children in Chicago who feel abandoned, and plenty of mothers who feel overwhelmed. But many of these same children are motivated, purposeful and have determination.”

In her introduction, Family Focus CEO Merri Ex emphasized that Samuels “changed the way we as a community respond to children” due to his focus on complex trauma and toxic stress when he was in federal leadership during the Obama Administration.

Samuels is the seventh recipient of this award. Read more about Bryan Samuels.