Rolling Out

Dara Munson champions equity and education as CEO of Family Focus

The president and CEO is driven by her passion for health and community
Photo courtesy of Dara Munson

Since relocating to Chicago in 2016 as CEO of Chicago Child Care Society, Dara Munson has championed equitable support for marginalized families. Her leadership facilitated the historic merger of Chicago Child Care Society and Family Focus, now serving 20,000 individuals across northeast Illinois. Munson’s extensive involvement in various leadership roles underscores her commitment to community empowerment and the realization of ancestral dreams.

In an exclusive interview with rolling out, Munson reflects on her transformative role in the social service sector.

What inspired you to pursue a career dedicated to health and how did your journey lead you to your current role as the CEO of Family Focus?

My passion for health and community empowerment led me to pursue a career dedicated to serving others. Throughout my journey, I’ve had the privilege of working in various roles within the human services sector, gaining valuable experience and insights along the way. My commitment to improving health outcomes for families ultimately led me to my current role as president and CEO of Family Focus, where — along with over 400 dynamic team members — I can directly impact the lives of those we serve and the broader community. I truly believe that when people are supported and empowered, they can seek and hopefully find their liberation.

In your opinion, what sets Family Focus apart from other organizations in terms of its approach to addressing the needs of families and children, and what successes have you witnessed during your tenure?

What sets Family Focus apart is our holistic approach to addressing the needs of the whole family, focusing on individual and systemic factors that impact their well-being. Through our comprehensive, multigenerational efforts and evidence-based programs, we’ve witnessed significant successes, including improved health outcomes, increased school readiness and enhanced family resilience. Our commitment to equity and inclusion ensures that all families have access to the support and resources they need to thrive.

Please share information about the resources available for maternal health and well-being in our area, particularly any expanded doula services, and how they benefit expectant mothers.

In our area, expanded doula services and other maternal health resources provide crucial support for expectant mothers, offering personalized care pre- and post-pregnancy and during delivery, education and advocacy. These resources benefit mothers by promoting positive birth experiences, improving maternal health outcomes and fostering a supportive community environment. Our goal is for babies to be born in a loving environment that supports their optimal growth and development from the start.

What is the significance of early childhood education in a child’s development?

Early care and education play a pivotal role in a child’s development, laying the foundation for future academic success, social-emotional well-being and lifelong learning. By investing in quality early care and education, we can empower children to reach their full potential and create a more equitable society. We partner with the entire family on their goals for social and economic upward mobility. Knowing that equity — or lack thereof — begins in the early years, Family Focus pairs early care and education professionals with every family that walks through our doors, meeting them where they dream.

Share some of your personal and professional goals for the future.

My professional goals revolve around advancing the mission of Family Focus and continuing to make a positive impact in our community. I aspire to further expand our programs and services, strengthen partnerships with local organizations and advocate for policies that support family well-being. Additionally, I’m dedicated to fostering a culture of innovation and excellence within our organization, ensuring that we remain at the forefront of community-based services. Personally, I endeavor to experience love, peace and joy in equal measure. My goal is to live life out loud.

Learn more about Family Focus here.

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