The Prevention Initiative

What if parents and children in every community had all the resources they needed to grow and thrive?

Photo of Suzin Bartley
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Founding Story: Share a story about a key experience or spark that helps the network understand why this project got started or a story about how you became inspired about the potential for this project to succeed.

Bella Bond was a two year old girl whose body washed up in Boston Harbor in June, 2015. Her identity was unknown for a time, and she became widely known by the media and by the world, as “Baby Doe." The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children generated tips to identify and to locate those responsible for the disposal of her body. News coverage began, and a large amount of public attention emerged. An estimated 56 million people viewed reports on the case. Bella’s mother and the mother’s boyfriend were arrested and authorities confirmed that Bella had been murdered.

Bella’s family was known to the state’s family services system that is in place to both protect the child and to address the family’s multiple social service needs. Despite this, services were uncoordinated and ineffective in intervening adequately or appropriately in this case. Bella’s case also was a call to reform a system of support that is badly broken and in need of a “new way” to address the need and interests of Massachusetts children and families. The Prevention Initiative fundamentally shifts the service system using proven research and frameworks to support children and families effectively. Further, the Prevention Initiative brings communities together in creating and coordinating a comprehensive array of supports that promote dynamic outcomes for both parents and children as well as safe and healthy environments for the community at large.

Which categories describe you? (the answer will not be public)

  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French, Caucasian)

Website

http://www.childrenstrustma.org

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [State]

  • Massachusetts

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [City]

Boston

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [State]

  • Massachusetts

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [City]

The Prevention Initiative will initially target 10 selected cities in Massachusetts. The ultimate goal of the Prevention Initiative is to serve all cities and towns in Massachusetts, and to become a model for replication in other states across the nation.

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The scale of child abuse is daunting. Each year, about 135,000 children are reported as abused or neglected in MA. A rate of 54 per 1,000 children (47.1 per 1,000 nationally)

While MA spends over $1 billion each year, child protective service systems are overwhelmed; 80% of reported cases of maltreatment receive little or no new support or services; roughly 80,000 get screened out of the system, and many more families with similar challenges go unreported.

We are proposing to shift the work of child welfare from an interventionist focus on family deficits to a proactive strengths-based approach that builds on family assets and resiliency, and hooks families into the support structures they need to thrive. Our model is designed to reach parents early before DCF is needed and improve opportunities to ensure that parents understand their role in their child’s early brain development.

The overall goal of the Prevention Initiative is to effect a population-level change in the rates of child abuse and neglect through a place-based, multiservice approach to support and strengthen families in Massachusetts. Its long-term goal is to raise the prevention of child maltreatment to be one of our top social, public, legislative, and community priorities across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Through the Prevention Initiative, the Children’s Trust plans to shift the work of child welfare from an interventionist focus on family deficits to a proactive, strengths-based approach that builds on family assets and resiliency, and helps families get into the support structures they need to thrive. It is our hope that the Prevention Initiative will serve as a catalyst for change and as an effective model for states across the nation.


The project’s design and implementation includes home visiting, family resource centers, parenting education, training child serving agencies in the prevention of child sexual abuse and conducting research to obtain a thorough understanding of each target community’s needs, strengths, priorities, and existing service structures. It also includes a strong parent voice in identifying their needs as parents, the needs of their children, and the needs in their community as pertaining to the wellbeing of families.


Healthy Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) of children is a key outcome of the project. All program sites will conduct specific SEL activities. We will partner with parents to create positive, healthy environments for children. Parents will build care giving skills through groups and individual support. They will also gain knowledge of healthy emotional child development, and connect to other parents and providers in their communities.


The project’s initial approach will take place in 10 target community sites in identified Massachusetts towns or cities. This effort will enable us to respond to the needs of families in these targeted sites and provide the outcomes needed for the well-being of children and the strength and stability of families. The Prevention Initiative’s targeted community sites will utilize a Children’s Trust Family Center as a hub for the community. The Family Centers will provide a standard menu of evidence-based and evidence-informed core services universally available to all families.


The Prevention Initiative will establish Prevention Communities in Massachusetts which will:

  • include Family Centers as hubs to provide, coordinate, and access a standard menu of core services including home visiting, parenting education, and support for fathers, as well as connections to locally prioritized services for families in defined geographic communities such as transportation, health care, housing, domestic violence, mental health, and substance abuse treatment
  • incorporate proven service frameworks and evidenced-based services, along with local fidelity to the statewide initiative
  • provide resources for and support parent partnership and leadership, convening of a Statewide Advisory Committee, and local governance of Family Centers
  • deliver the organizational change, program development, staff training, and data collection/analysis required to protect and promote strong children, families, and communities
  • through in-depth evaluation will identify increased strength and resilience of parents, increased positive outcomes for children, decreased risky behavior by parents, and decreased frequency of child maltreatment in communities served by the Prevention Initiative


The Prevention Initiative rests on two frameworks which are widely accepted across the country:

The Strengthening Families Framework is broadly recognized, evidence-based and shifts the work of child welfare from a focus on family deficits to a focus on building family strengths and resiliency while acknowledging the very real challenges faced. Five key factors support the optimal well-being of children (from birth to 8) and their families:

  • Parental resilience: developing the ability to cope and bounce back from challenges;
  • Knowledge of parenting and child development: receiving accurate information about raising young children and learning appropriate and effective strategies to gauge expectations and set limits on child behaviors;
  • Social connections: engaging friends, family, neighbors, and others in the community to provide emotional and logistical support and assistance in meeting basic needs;
  • Social and emotional development of children: fostering a child’s ability to interact positively with others and to communicate emotions appropriately;
  •  Concrete support in times of need: accessing life essentials such as food, clothing, and housing when there is immediate need.


The Standards of Quality for Family Strengthening and Support are based on the premise that the primary responsibility for the development and well-being of children lies within the family, and that all segments of society must support families as they raise children. There are five sections of standards for effective Family Centers:

  • Family Centeredness: valuing and recognizing families as integral to each program;
  • Family Strengthening: supporting families to be strong, healthy, and safe, thereby promoting a child’s optimal development;
  • Embracing Diversity: supporting all families’ participation in a diverse society, as well as engaging in ongoing learning and adaptation to diversity;
  • Community Building: facilitating families; social connections, developing parents’ their leadership skills, and collaborating with other programs;
  • Evaluation: looking at program strengths, as well as areas for further development, to guide continuous quality improvement and achieve positive results for families.


Home Visiting for Young First-Time Parents:

The Children’s Trust Healthy Families Massachusetts (HFM), a nationally-accredited statewide family support and coaching program for first-time parents, will be an integral part of the Prevention Initiative for young parents with newborns especially those without a support system in place. Through this program parents are matched with trained professions who meet with them regularly in their home to provide guidance starting in pregnancy, and as needed, through the child’s third birthday.

A rigorous randomized control trial evaluation by Tufts University showed that the HFM program is successfully:

  • lowering parents’ risky behaviors, which likely reduces children’s exposure to traumatic events
  • lowering participants’ parenting stress, a risk factor for child abuse and neglect
  • promoting better health outcomes for the most vulnerable moms and babies
  • promoting co-parenting relationships that actively involve fathers
  • significantly increasing educational achievement, paving the way toward self-sufficiency
  • reducing the use of corporal punishment among parents who had more traumatic events in their past


The Pew Charitable Trusts describes data collection and analysis by the Children’s Trust’s HFM program as a model for home visiting programs nationwide. According to PEW, the Children’s Trust “pioneered an innovation in evidence-based home visiting when it began building the data collection and analysis capacity to both monitor the delivery of home visiting services and track whether those services were contributing to healthier, more secure families.”


Parent Partnership and Leadership:

Parent partnership and leadership will be encouraged and fostered through the Family Centers. Parent will be given the opportunity for personal growth, to gain the knowledge and skills to function in leadership roles and represent a “parent voice” to help shape the direction of their family, programs and communities. Parents and caregivers are the experts on whether or not the programs and activities are meeting their needs and are delivered in a culturally appropriate manner. Opportunities will be provided for parents to become involved in ways that meet their comfort levels including volunteering their time at the FC, helping to distribute outreach material to other families, facilitating workshops, and eventually taking leadership positions in developing and implementing Parent Cafés where parents share their ideas and suggestions on how the FCs can provide stronger services to families, and serving on committees and/or boards at the FC and within their communities.


Service Delivery:

Our universal approach will offer all families with young children, living in the target communities, a one-time home visit to ascertain their needs, challenges, and interests, and connect them with the Family Center (FC) in their community as well as provide referrals as needed. All first-time parents under 30 years of age will be given the option to enroll in our Healthy Families home visiting program for newborns which, depending on their need, could continue until their child is three years of age. Using successful outreach strategies, the FC will work to keep the family engaged and aware of the offerings available to them such as: resource and referrals to existing community agencies (see model attachment), clothing/toy exchange, parenting workshops and educational series, parent-child activities and family fun events.


Parent and Community Cafés will be used to assess the level to which the “five protective factors” in both the family and the larger community are robust, and to help assess community and family needs. A Community Governance Board (consisting of parents, physicians, and representatives from local schools, business and agencies) will also be established to work with the program staff to determine what program offerings are most suited to families in their community.


The Children’s Trust will ensure that evidenced-based or best practice models are then made available for implementation with the community. Our 25 years of successful experience in working with communities to implement home visiting, parenting education and support models will be utilized to ensure that the models chosen and their implementation will be supported through training, technical assistance, data collection and evaluation.


Finally drawing on our experience in working with child serving institutions in the prevention of child sexual abuse through screening, codes of conduct, safe environments and training for staff, parents and children, the Prevention Initiative will work with the Community Governance Board, schools and community based child serving agencies to provide the training and technical assistance required to implement a broad awareness of child abuse prevention.


The Prevention Initiative will bring all of the evidenced based or informed strategies that prevent child abuse and thereby help ensure that children are raised in healthy and safe homes. We believe that by partnering with community leaders and parents we can bring the resources and support needed to dramatically decrease child maltreatment and foster the healthy social and emotional development of children in each Prevention Community.


Through a collaboration with Tufts University, a preliminary assessment of the effectiveness of the innovative model in selected sites will be conducted to evaluate program success, determine areas for improvement, and to inform development of an enhanced intervention.

Is your model focused on any of the following traditionally underserved communities?

  • Communities of color
  • Children who are differently abled
  • LGBTQ or non-binary individuals
  • Religious minorities (non-Christian)
  • Low-income communities
  • Other

Does your model work within any of the following sectors?

  • Childcare
  • Child and Family Services
  • Community Development and Empowerment
  • Criminal Justice
  • Education
  • Mental Health
  • Other

If you chose "other," please share the sector you work within here:

Services are universally targeted for all families in the communities served.

Year Founded

1988

Project Stage

  • Growth (the pilot has already launched and is starting to expand)

Example: Walk the network through a specific example of what happens when a person or group engages with your solution.

Parents receive a home visit to discuss their needs and connect them to a Family Center. Parents come to the FCs seeking support and assistance around any number of issues concerning their child and family service needs. The FC staff help the parents and children get connected to services offered both in the center and in the community where the parents and children live. Parents are offered additional and ongoing opportunities to learn leadership skills, guide and support services offered at the center, and engage in new and wanted activities to help and support the needs of their families. Family Centers become hubs of information and key support to all families in the communities in which they serve.

Impact: What was the impact of your work last year? Please also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Last year, through our Healthy Families Program, Parenting Education and Support, Family Centers, Fatherhood Initiative and multitude of family centered trainings, we had a positive impact on 19,000 parents, children and family service professionals.

Through the Prevention Initiative our projected future impacts on children, families and communities in Massachusetts will be: families are safer, stronger and thriving; systems of care and support are responsive, skilled and able to serve well; access is ensured for all who seek services – “no wrong door;” and, there are fewer out of home placements and fewer Community Referral Agency referrals. Through this initiative, we will strengthen families and protect the wellbeing of our children – ultimately reducing child maltreatment, and giving all children the chance to grow up emotionally healthy and ready to reach their true potential.

Organization Type

  • nonprofit/NGO/citizen sector

Annual Budget

  • over $5mil

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is your solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

The Children’s Trust is a stable organization that is committed to its mission. The Children’s Trust receives support for its programs from a variety of sources including government, foundation and corporate grant support, and unrestricted donations from individual donors. We are committed to the success and sustainability of our programs, and we will continue to seek out additional funding opportunities to sustain this much-needed program.

Unique Value Proposition: How else is this problem being addressed? Are there other organizations working in the same field, and how does your project differ from these other approaches?

The Protective Factors Framework developed by the Center for the Study of Social Policy, the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) study completed by Kaiser Permanente and advances in brain research all contribute to this model for family services and family well-being. The project is informed by these bodies of evidence-based work and integrates them to offer a comprehensive, effective array of supports for children and families in each community.

Reflect on the Field and its Future: Stepping outside of your project, what do you see as the most important or promising shifts that can advance children’s wellbeing?

The integration of the Protective Factors Framework, the ACES study, latest advancements in brain research, and the Children’s Trust Healthy Families Massachusetts model are conclusive in illustrating the most effective and evidence-based approaches to reducing child maltreatment and to strengthening the healthy well-being of children and families. These approaches are not yet integrated across as a single field in the child and family service practice. This project creates a single field of best practices in serving children and families.

Source: How did you hear about the Children’s Wellbeing Challenge? (the answer will not be public)

  • Email

Referral: If you discovered the Challenge thanks to an organization or person other than Ashoka, who was it? (the answer will not be public)

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Program Design Clarity

We will work with 10 target communities where all families with young children will receive a one-time home visit to discuss their needs. First-time parents with infants will have the option of enrolling in our Healthy Families home visiting program. All parents with young children will be connected to a Family Center (FC) where they can partake in daily parent-child activities and workshops, connect with other parents, and have a voice in the FC structure. The FCs will act as a hub for services providing families with counseling and referrals for housing, food and other needs and services.

Community Leadership

Community feedback and leadership mechanisms are a central to our work. This is done in several ways including parent/community café focus groups, our parent leadership model of work, and through participation on local program advisory board activities. This drives overall program quality assurance, ensures participation from key stakeholders in the community, and is a key lever for new activities and program change when needed and wanted.

Age of Children Impacted

  • Pregnancy - 0
  • 0-1.5
  • 1.5 -3
  • 3 - 5
  • 6 - 12
  • 12+

Spread Strategies

Several key strategies drive systems change and re-shape culture and behavior within our program model. They are: Protective Factors framework; accreditation of the Healthy Families home visiting model; implementation of Parent Partnership/ Leadership framework developed by CT; conduct Family Support training system developed by CT; conduct research forums on evidence-based Best Practice frameworks and programming; engage in Youth Thrive work.

Reflect on how your work helps children to thrive. How are you cultivating children’s sense of self, belonging, and purpose through your model?

This is done in several ways: Healthy Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) of children is a key goal of this program. All program sites conduct specific SEL activities. We partner with parents to create positive, healthy environments for children. Parents build care giving skills through groups and individual support. They gain knowledge of healthy emotional child development, and connect to other parents and providers in their communities.

Leadership Story

As Executive Director, I have had the privilege of leading a talented and passionate staff as we work to stop child abuse. This work is extremely challenging as the focus on child abuse remains on how to treat victims after the abuse occurs vs. looking at the issue systemically in order to better understand how to prevent it. However, it is the success we, as a team, have had in implementing home visiting that inspires me. We have created a national model as HFM has proven results that show the positive impact on young parents raising children! That keeps us all resolved to move forward!!!

What awards or honors has the project received? (Optional)

Recognized by Pew Charitable Trusts for HFM data collection/analysis as a natl home visiting model

Suzin Bartley awarded honorary Dr. of Pub. Svc. degree by Tufts Univ. for leadership in ensuring families are strong so children thrive & Day-Garrett Award from Smith College School of Social Work.

Organization's Twitter Handle

@trust4kids

Organization’s Facebook Page (URL)

https://www.facebook.com/trust4kids

Leader's LinkedIn Profile (URL)

https://www.linkedin.com/company/2327856

Evaluation results

6 evaluations so far

1. Relevance: Does this project seem to help children (ages 0 to 12 years) develop a strong sense of self, belonging, and purpose?

5 - Yes, this is great! The project lays out a strong, compelling case for how its model nurtures children’s wellbeing. - 16.7%

4 - It seems like a good fit, and the model talks explicitly about children’s wellbeing. - 66.7%

3 - I think so. The project seems related to children’s wellbeing, but the logic is vague. - 16.7%

2 - Not sure. The project doesn’t have much to do with wellbeing, or it doesn’t give enough information. - 0%

1 - Nope, this project definitely doesn’t fit the challenge brief (e.g., It doesn’t help kids younger than 12, isn’t in the U.S., etc.) - 0%

2. Innovation: Does this project tackle children’s wellbeing from a new angle?

5 - I loved this! The project describes a novel model that addresses important cultural or systemic barriers. - 0%

4 - This is pretty cool. The project is addressing an important problem in a new or compelling way. - 50%

3 - I feel like there’s something there, but I want more details about what makes it distinctive. - 33.3%

2 - It’s a good project, but I’ve seen others like it before. - 16.7%

1 - It was confusing or hard to tell what it made it different. - 0%

3. Social Impact: What is this project’s potential for creating positive social impact?

5 - Lots of potential. This project is achieving impressive results, and it’s growing quickly. It could absolutely inspire changes in the ways we approach caring for kids nationally, across sectors (e.g. childcare, healthcare, education). - 16.7%

4 - Pretty good potential. This project demonstrates significant positive impact so far, and it could scale regionally or nationally one day and fundamentally change how a system operates (e.g. childcare, healthcare, education). - 83.3%

3 - Budding potential. This project is creating local impact, but it would take a few adjustments before it could scale. - 0%

2 - Some potential. This project demonstrates some initial positive impact, but it would require major changes before it could scale. - 0%

1 - Limited potential. This project has great intentions, but it looks like it does not include key drivers of a shift towards children’s wellbeing. - 0%

4. Overall, how do you feel about this idea?

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 16.7%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 50%

3 - I think the idea is great, but it needs some work before it moves onto the next round. - 33.3%

2 - I liked it fine but preferred others. - 0%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. Needs significant revisions. - 0%

5. Offer some feedback. Where should this participant spend some time revising?

DEFINING THE PROBLEM. Make sure to articulate the root causes or main barriers of the social issue your project addresses. (Founding Story, Problem, Solution). - 40%

CLARITY OF MODEL. Make sure to mention (a.) the beneficiary, b) the main activities, and c) how those activities drive social impact. Keep it streamlined! - 100%

MARKETPLACE. Make sure to research other players in this space and articulate how this project is different. I didn’t get a complete sense of how this project compares to others. - 40%

IMPACT POTENTIAL. Make sure to use specific numbers to describe what your project has achieved so far! And consider how you might scale the model or its insights, through partnerships, trainings, or franchising. - 20%

WRITING STYLE. Try to stay concise and make it vivid. Avoid jargon. - 0%

Nothing stands out! I thought it was great. - 20%

3 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of Charlotte Stites
Team

I would love to learn more. It looks as though you have many centers throughout the state of Mass. How to you recruit families? Do you provide medical services? The website says there are 7 centers, but over 40 are listed!? We are starting a family wellness center in an underserved neighborhood in Louisville, KY. I would love to learn more about this work.

Photo of Suzin Bartley
Team

Hello Charlotte, I apologize for not responding sooner. Our email notifications were turned off. I am responding on behalf of Suzin Bartley our Executive Director who is out of the office this week. We now have 8 Family Centers across the state since we were able to open our 8th FC this year in Springfield, MA a struggling community very much in need of our services. Our website lists 40 communities that are served by the eight Family Centers. Most of our FCs are currently located in the most underserved cities and rural areas of MA. Our goal is to open many more FCs so that all communities in MA have access to this valuable service but our capacity to open a new FC is determined by fundraising. We believe that having a Family Center in a community should be as important as having a Senior Center. Each of our Family Centers has an identified family recruitment plan which includes working closely with community, state, and social service agencies for referrals, posting flyers at churches, schools, libraries, health organizations and pediatrician offices, etc., and word-of-mouth referrals from families involved with the FC. Our Family Centers are established in collaboration with community partners which is what enables us to offer our services across the state. In selecting sites for our FCs we issue RFPs to community partners across the state who are currently operating a similar but limited service such as a childcare center or other type of community or social service center. If they are interested in collaborating with us on a Family Center, they respond with a lengthy proposal answering our structured questions on their ability to run an FC, their plans for family recruitment including a description of the need in their community, their personal commitment to the FC (i.e. staffing and partial financial commitment) etc. Once we select the sites to operate our "Massachusetts Family Center" model, we agree to a seven year commitment of support from the Children's Trust including financial support, extensive training, guidance, meetings, monthly sites visits, community of practice meetings with staff from the other FCs, and ongoing technical assistance. The FCs are held to an agreed upon code of conduct, must submit quarterly reports, and are evaluated each year by the Children's Trust. The FCs provide parenting education workshops on parenting skills, healthy child development, financial literacy, parent leadership and advocacy, etc., parent support groups, parent-child activities and playgroups and much more. They also provide extensive community resource materials, and parent drop in time where parents can seek private counseling, coaching and referrals to other needed community services including connecting them to workforce development resources, job training and secondary education. We don't provide medical services at the FCs but we do help parents navigate the system in accessing the medical care they need as well as other needed support with housing, food, etc. In addition to referrals, the FCs also provide direct concrete assistance in times of need for families such as food, transportation, clothing and items such as strollers and car seats, and assistance with child care and translations services. I hope this is helpful! I am sure Suzin and/or our program staff would be happy to speak with you directly if you would like to have a more detailed discussion on our Family Center model and other programs. Best regards, Christine Lojko, Director of Foundation and Corporate Relations

Photo of Charlotte Stites
Team

Thanks for the information. Sounds like a wonderful model that has expanded care across your state. I would love to learn more.