News & Perspectives

News & Perspectives

“I want my children to have a life that is filled with happiness."

Andrée Gonzalez (center) with her partner, Lucas, and Healthy Families staff at the Children's Trust Gala.

Andrée Gonzalez of Shrewsbury watched with pride as a video about her experience as a participant in and now employee of the Children’s Trust Healthy Families Massachusetts program aired at the Children's Trust annual Gala last month. Gonzalez and her partner enrolled Healthy Families Massachusetts when she became pregnant at 19 years old and was recently hired by the program. Healthy Families is a home-based family support and coaching program that supports young, first-time parents and helps them create stable, nurturing environments for their children.

“I want my children to have a life that is filled with happiness, filled with love, and where they are kind,” said Gonzalez at the beginning of the video.

Gonzalez shared her experiences as a child, explaining that she was raised by her mother because her father was physically abusive and struggled with crime and drug use. She says that as an adult, she understands that when her mother yelled at her as a child, it was a stress response. She talked about how her participation in Healthy Families helped her reflect on her childhood and how she has learned to manage parenting stress in a healthier way so that her children don’t have that same experience.

“Healthy Families has impacted my parenting philosophy in a lot of ways. The reflective strategies have helped me as a parent realized these are the things I went through as a child that I don’t want my kids to go through and it has helped me to be more aware of behaviors that resemble negative things that I don’t want to repeat with my kids,” she said.

Healthy Families matches parents with trained professionals who visit families’ homes to provide support during pregnancy and the child’s first three years of life. Home visitors teach parents about proper baby care, promote nurturing and attachment, practice effective parenting skills, and ensure parents have a solid understanding of healthy child development. They also counsel parents on achieving personal goals such as going back to school or securing a job. Gonzalez recently graduated from the University Massachusetts Boston with a degree in sociology. Upon earning her degree and completion of the Healthy Families program, she was hired as a home visitor.

“Being a previous participant and now a home visitor really impacts my parenting in positive ways,” said Gonzalez. “The greatest impact that Healthy Families has is lowering the rate of abuse and neglect in Massachusetts. Learning what is developmentally appropriate for your child and just having someone to ask questions relieves stress on parents.”

According to a study from Tufts University, just two years after enrollment, mothers in Healthy Families Massachusetts were nearly twice as likely than those in the control group to finish at least one year of college. The same evaluation from Tufts University found that participating in Healthy Families Massachusetts led to a 36% decrease in parenting stress, a risk factor for child abuse and neglect. The longitudinal Tufts evaluation also found that involvement in the program led to lowering parents’ risky behaviors such as drug and alcohol abuse, reducing homelessness and dependence on cash assistance, and increasing parents’ employment and educational attainment which helps the economic stability of the family.

You make these programs possible. And because of you, more families, like Andrée's, are gaining the skills and confidence needed to build strong families.