Parenthesis Family Center of Oak Park, the nonprofit that offers educational programs and resources for local parents, is looking to merge with the nonprofit New Moms, Inc., based on Chicago’s West Side, according to a June 21 statement released by the organization. Bruce McNulty, Parenthesis Family’s board chairman, said in an interview that the merger could be finalized by the fall.
McNulty cited growing administrative costs, in line with the growing number of families the organization has been serving, as a primary reason for the merger. Revenues, however, haven’t increased as rapidly, he said.
Last August, the Oak Park-based Collaboration for Early Childhood — an organization funded by local taxing bodies to enhance the provision of early childhood resources in the village — announced that it would part ways with Parenthesis, which it had been contracting with for the provision of home visiting services. That contract, according to the Collaboration’s April 2015 budget report, may have been upwards of $250,000.
In the June 24 interview, McNulty noted that “it’s hard to say, but it’s likely” that Parenthesis would’ve considered merging with another organization if that contract hadn’t ended since “we’re always looking for ways to be more efficient.”
McNulty said after the split with the Collaboration none of the families his organization was servicing left. He also cited the state’s ongoing budget woes as a motivation for considering new ways to shore up the organization’s financial viability.
McNulty said New Moms, which almost exclusively services clients in the city, has an operating budget that’s about five times that of Parenthesis, which operated on a budget last year of around a half-million dollars and services over 90 families in the Oak Park and River Forest area.
According to its 2015 annual report, New Moms took in around $2.4 million in revenue last year, with 43 percent of that coming from government contracts and grants. In an interview last month, Laura Zumdahl, the organization’s president and CEO, noted that in the nearly year-long period the state has gone without a budget her organization has been forced to lay off two staff members in its home visiting program and has another six full-time positions that haven’t been filled.
“New Moms is a 35-year-old organization that provides parenting education and support, housing, job training and doula services for young families in Chicago,” noted the statement released by Parenthesis. “Their experience and larger size are a strategic match that will allow Parenthesis to continue to grow beyond its current size, which is at a historic high: over 92 families in intensive parenting programs and 300 more in a family workshop.”
Most of the changes relating to the merger will be administrative, McNulty said, with some positions and functions to be absorbed by New Moms.
“Our executive director [Amy Starin] is moving on,” McNulty said. “She’s going to work part-time until this is completed and Laura Zumdahl will be executive director of both organizations. The administrative savings are really the biggest cost-savings to us.”
McNulty also lauded the likely consolidation for its potential to increase the size of Parenthesis’s service sector, opening it up to a Chicago clientele that had previously been inaccessible.
“New Moms provides a couple of things we’ve never been able to do,” he said, before referencing the Chicago organization’s numerous work training programs and a 40-unit apartment building for young mothers that it owns and operates.
McNulty also noted as an independent entity, Parenthesis was restricted to servicing only residents in the Oak Park area as a condition of most of its funding. With New Moms, he said, that restriction becomes less a limiting factor.
“We look at this as a nice match,” he said. “We can cross Austin Avenue easily now.”
Still, McNulty said, Parenthesis would remain in Oak Park after the merger and most of its employees and clients will remain at the organization. He noted that merger talks are currently in the preliminary “due diligence” phase, but that communication between the two nonprofits has been “overwhelmingly positive.”
“Parenthesis is really a remarkable organization and I’ve been proud to lead it,” McNulty said. “I just want it to be around for another 40 years. I think this merger will help us accomplish that.”
New Moms CEO Zumdahl couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.