umass amherst alumni association honors suzin bartley
business leaders promote child abuse prevention at massachusetts state house
BOSTON – February 25, 2014 – James Rooney, executive director of the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, and Ryan Hutchins, senior vice president at Gilbane Co., spoke about the benefits of family support programs in preventing child abuse during a Legislators’ Briefing held Feb. 23, 2014, at the State House. The event was hosted by the Children’s Trust, Massachusetts’ leading family support organization. Mr. Rooney is the recently appointed chair of the Children’s Trust’s Board of Directors and Mr. Hutchins is vice chair.
The event also included remarks by a former program participant and now staff member in Healthy Families Massachusetts, an in-home family support and coaching program funded statewide by the Children’s Trust.
Mr. Rooney and Mr. Hutchins pointed out that family support programs are not only good for children and families, but also good for business. High-quality family support programs help families raise physically and emotionally healthy children, who learn better in school and become productive members of the workforce.
Channel Baez of Healthy Families Framingham/Milford said parents of all ages need the type of support provided by the Children’s Trust. She became a mother when she was 18 and then had a second child last year at the age of 29.
“Having had a home visitor through the Healthy Families Program made such a difference” as a teen parent, she said. “Having someone to support your decision to parent and motivate you and inspire you to pursue your goals and actually have the solid belief in you that you and your child are valuable and will contribute to the betterment of society is priceless.”
She said she learned important parenting skills that made her a good mother and set personal goals that motivated her to continue her education. With support from Healthy Families, she received her associate’s degree and then went on to graduate sum cum laude from the University of Massachusetts and participate in a prestigious leadership program at Harvard University.
“Healthy Families helps young parents across the state achieve that success. It helps them become strong parents raising healthy and happy kids,” she said.
In gratitude, she became a home visitor to provide that support to other young parents. “It is so rewarding and fulfilling to know that as a home visitor I can essentially provide the support that many of these young parents are not receiving elsewhere,” she said.
Suzin Bartley, executive director of the Children’s Trust, invited attendees to join the Children’s Trust in working to strengthen families across the Commonwealth. She shared that working with families early to ensure they are strong and healthy is the surest way to prevent child abuse and keep kids safe.
“I’m asking you to come up stream with us and support our work to create nurturing homes before the damage of child abuse occurs,” she said.
She pointed out that an evaluation by Tufts University found the rate of child abuse among Healthy Families Massachusetts mothers compared favorably to participants in another study examining maltreatment rates among teen mothers (11.6 percent vs. 33 percent).
Among legislators in attendance were Senators Richard Moore, D-Uxbridge, and Michael Rodriguez, D-Westport, and Representatives Paul Donato, D-Medford, Mary Keefe, DD-Worcester. Representative Kay Khan, D-Newton, sponsored the briefing. She is co-chair of the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disability.