25 yrs. ago at DCF I had a painful experience with a family I thought was making steps in the right direction. Instead I learned the abuse had continued. I was crushed! It became a tipping point for me.
I came home and said “I can’t do this anymore!” My husband handed me the “help wanted ads” and a miracle happened. I saw an ad that said “Seeking Executive Director to develop strategies for child abuse prevention.” PREVENTION! Develop strategies for prevention! There it was - I then knew. The mission of this organization needed to be MY mission. It forever shifted how I looked at my work.
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