Adopt-A-Family Thanksgiving Donation Items

We are getting close to having all of our families adopted by our Thanksgiving donation date of November 18th! But we still need your help to ensure that our remaining 20 families receive a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.

Wondering how you can help?
Once you adopt a family over at Adopt-A-Family, simply add these items to your shopping cart and plan to deliver them to our Midtown office by November 18th. We appreciate all of your support for our families during the Thanksgiving holiday!


Wondering How To Become More Involved For the Holidays?

adoptionsWe are excited to relaunch our blog during one of the most wonderful times of the year at Families First! Thanks to your continued support, we are in the midst of our eighth year of Adopt-A-Family! We hope to make this year another success with your help.



Adopt a family and provide a Thanksgiving meal or gifts for the December holidays. Visit Adopt-A-Family to view and select a family. Once you have selected a family and been approved, you will receive a phone call and an email with details about your family and their wishlist. That email will also include details about drop off dates and location. Now it’s time to shop!
This is also a great way to get your friends, family, coworkers, neighbors, school, or church family involved!

If you aren’t able to adopt a family this year, consider donating a toy, children’s coat, or household cleaning supplies. Families and children come into our programs all throughout the year so your donation can help ensure that every family has a happy holiday!

We are in need of wrapping paper, gift bags, gift boxes, tape, and large trash bags. If you have any extra supplies you can spare or have some room in your shopping cart on your next grocery visit, please think of Families First! You can drop these items off at our office in Midtown.


Interested in volunteering at our office? Join the Adopt-A-Family Elf Team! We need help with unloading and wrapping gifts, taking photos, greeting sponsors, and assisting with administrative tasks. Sign up for a shift here!

Meet Shanthi: Director of CQI

We’d like you to meet Shanthi. She joined the Families First team in October of this year by filling a position in our CQI Department. Our CQI department is responsible for ensuring that Families First identifies, plans, and implements ongoing improvements in its delivery of services and uses the most accurate data, information, and research to improve upon and monitor its operations. Join us in welcoming Shanthi to Families First!
  • Name: Shanthi Pierce
  • Position at Families First: Director of Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI)
  • Alma mater: University of Richmond (undergrad), Harvard University (masters)
  • Degree: Bachelor of Arts (majored in Math and Economics) and Master’s in Public Administration focused on International Development
  • Spouse: I just got married at the beginning of the year to my husband, Eric. He’s a PhD student at Georgia Tech/Emory.
  • So far, what is your favorite part about working at Families First? Everyday I learn something new about our programs and feel even more honored to be a part of this organization serving our community
  • What excites you about your new position at Families First? Having the opportunity to get to know and work with everyone at Families First, since CQI works with all the service areas and administrative units.
  • Ocean or pool: Pool. I have a completely irrational fear of sharks so oceans terrify me.
  • Favorite Book: Into the Wild
  • What is one thing you couldn’t live without? French fries
  • Favorite website: Any news site – CNN, BBC…I’m a news junkie.
  • Best advice your mother ever gave you: When in doubt, ask questions.
  • Favorite place on Earth: My favorite vacation so far was to Tofo, Mozambique. But I love traveling and hope to always be finding new favorite places!
  • Do you currently serve on any boards/committees or volunteer with other organizations around town? Not yet, but I’d like to now that I’m settled in Atlanta.
If you are interested in joining the Families First team, please visit our career center at



On September 8, 2014 the world watched in utter shock as they witnessed Baltimore Ravens star Ray Rice strike, his then fiancé’, in an elevator knocking her unconscious. A previously released video from outside of the elevator only presented the aftermath as he attempted to drag her out into the hallway. The NFL® initially gave him a two-game suspension. His penalty was upgraded to an indefinite suspension, once TMZ® released the coverage from inside the elevator.

Clearly, this incident made the news because it involved celebrity. However, a closer look at family violence in general revels some alarming facts. 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence during her lifetime. Women experience more than 4 million physical assaults and rapes each year because of their partners, and men are victims of nearly 3 million physical assaults annually. Domestic Violence (DV), also known as intimate partner violence, can happen to anyone, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, income and other factors.

In Georgia, DV statistics are even more alarming. According to the Georgia Commission on Family Violence, in 2013, the number of crisis calls to Georgia certified domestic violence agencies reached, 58,955.  They go on to point out that law enforcement officers responded to 72,870 calls related to domestic violence in 2012. Similarly, there were 22,206 protective and stalking orders issued in Georgia in that same year.  According to the Violence Policy Center (2013), Georgia was recently ranked 12th in the nation for its rate of men killing women.

Family violence not only impacts women, but the number of children exposed to domestic violence is equally disturbing. The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (2013) estimate as many as 10 million children and adolescents witness violence between their caregivers each year. Children exposed to this type of environment can develop serious emotional and behavior problems. These problems are not easily detected among caregivers but are manifested in their outlook to include symptoms such as anxiety or fear, depression, loss of interest in school, friends or things they enjoyed in the past, sleep problems such as bed wetting, poor anger management and fighting at school.

What is Family Violence (also known as Intimate Partner Violence)?
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, domestic violence is defined as “a pattern of abuse behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner”. The Official Code of Georgia Annotated, (19-13-34) Family Violence is defined as the occurrence of one or more of the following acts: Any felony, or the commission of offenses of battery, simple battery, simple assault, assault, and stalking, criminal damage to property, unlawful restraint, or criminal trespass. Family violence is applied when the act occurs between past or present spouses, persons who are parents of the same child, parent and children, stepparents and stepchildren, foster parents and foster children, or other persons living or formerly living in the same house hold.

Georgia’s Response to Family Violence
In 1992, the Georgia General Assembly established the Georgia Commission on Family Violence and gave it the mission to develop a comprehensive state plan for ending family violence in Georgia. A coordinated community response represented the best approach to address these problems. This involved every segment of the community-including judges, advocates, law enforcement, medical professionals, educators, and concerned citizens. Throughout the state, quarterly TASK Force meetings are held to discuss plans, obtain updates and to implement local programs and initiatives. The Commission also established standards for organizations and individuals who work with offenders. Family Violence Intervention Programs seek to rehabilitate the offender and counter their use of power and control. The Task Force is also charged with reprioritizing victim safety and participant accountability, according to GCFV.

Families Firsts’ Response to Family Violence
Family Violence Intervention Program Services –
Families First® has remained a leading agency and active advocates for change in the effort to reduce family violence and violence against women and children. Families First currently conducts Family Violence Intervention Programs (FVIP) in each of our office locations throughout metro-Atlanta.  FVIP is a 24-week class that helps participants to understand the impact of their violence on their lives and families, and to accept responsibility for their behavior and learn healthier copies strategies.  There are more than 10 groups conducted each week; six (6) groups for men and four (4) groups for women. These sessions are provided by highly trained and skilled facilitators who use the Duluth Model, which focuses on issues of power and control while holding offenders accountable for their behavior and actions.

Anger Management Services – Families First also recognizes that many individuals present with difficulty managing their anger and emotions. While anger is often displayed in FVIP cases, many individuals find themselves in non-partner related conflicts which often result in similar charges. In these cases, Families First provides Anger Management Services. Over the course of 8 – 12 weeks, the Anger Management program helps participants to identify their personal triggers and learn to control their emotions before their behavior becomes inappropriate or violent. Participation may be voluntary or court-ordered.

Resources to Consider – If you are you know someone in a violent relationship, here are a few resources provided by the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence to consider:

List of Domestic Violence Programs in Georgia
Statewide Resources

Resources for Underserved Populations and Community Based Programs

If you or someone you know could benefit from Family Violence or Anger Management classes or counseling, please reach out to Families First at 404-853-2844. If you’d like more information about the additional services Families First offers, please visit

Written by: Gerry L. White, Ph.D.
Families First Coordinator, Family Violence Intervention
Program & Anger Management Services

Meet Shannon Gurule, HR Coordinator

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We have a lot of new faces around the office these days. Shannon Gurule (pronounced “guru-lay”) joined our team this week as our new HR Coordinator. To learn more about Shannon, please see a quick Q&A below.

Hometown: Colorado Springs, CO
Alma Mater: University of Northern Colorado
Degree/Major: Liberal Arts – Classical Music
What excites you about your new position? I am graduating with my Masters in Human Resources in August, so I am really excited to be able to apply all of my knowledge to my daily work; and after being here a week, I’m really excited about all the hard work people put into doing something great for the community!
Why is your job so important to Families First? My job is to do my absolute best to get the best staff for Families First so that we can provide the best services!
Best advice your mom ever gave you: Whenever I was stressed out she’d always say: “Don’t cry darling, this too shall pass…” and that always kept it in perspective for me…she’s a good mom.
Spouse/Kids/Pets: Husband-Curtis, Jazz Musician/Legal Assistant/Engineering Student
Dream Job: HR Manager or Director
Hobbies: I love to travel, every year I try to fill my passport with a new stamp. Last year was Paris and Italy…
What is your favorite restaurant in Atlanta?  LaParilla (I love Mexican food)
Favorite quote: “Get busy livin’, or get busy dyin’.” –Morgan Freeman (Shawshank Redemption)
First paying job: Grocery Bagger at the Commissary (Military Grocery Store) Ft. Carson, CO, 15 years old.
What is one thing you couldn’t live without? POPCORN (no, really, I love popcorn)
Do you sit on any local boards/committees for other organizations or volunteer anywhere? I hope to after I graduate.