On April 1st, the Children’s Trust covered the Grand Staircase of the State House with 409 children’s shoes representing the average number of children abused each week in Massachusetts as part of “Step Up for Kids” to acknowledge April as Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Approximately 150 people attended the event and heard how family support programs help moms and dads create nurturing homes where kids grow up physically and mentally healthy – the best way to prevent abuse. The Children’s Trust honored Senator Jennifer Flanagan, D-Leominster, and Representative Paul Donato, D-Medford, for their work to aid these programs.
Two parents told how support programs funded by the Children’s Trust benefited their families.
Jessica Simmons, 20, of Leominster said Healthy Families of Northern Worcester County, an in-home family support and coaching program, helped to stabilize her young family so there was less stress and she and her boyfriend, Denzel Gonzales, could focus on good parenting.
“During my pregnancy I had no family to support me. I also had no knowledge of pregnancy, birth, or taking care of a baby. I was on my own. I was scared that I might not be a good mom. I was worried that I didn’t have the right tools and knowledge to take care of a baby. I felt overwhelmed and anxious.
Our Healthy Families home visitor, Leah, became our family. She taught me everything I needed to know. She shared information on pregnancy nutrition and health, signs of labor, breastfeeding, and much more. She provided me with pamphlets, DVD’s, and books. Getting the baby supplies donated from Healthy Families took a lot of stress off our back.
Because of this support we were able to properly prepare for a baby, we could focus more on being good parents, finishing school, and getting better jobs.
John Falco of Medford, who has participated for over 12 years in programs at Medford Family Network (MFN), a family center funded by the Children’s Trust, said the center made him a better dad and provided a community of support for him,
his wife, and their three sons.
“When I became a dad I did not have much experience with little kids and I often wondered if how I was parenting was right. I could change a diaper in 30 seconds and sing every Wiggles song known to man, but that was the easy stuff.
Thankfully, I had the MFN to help me with the rest.
When I didn’t know why my five-year old son refused to read his bedtimes stories, a literacy class at the MFN helped me find new ways to engage him in literacy and redevelop his love for reading. The MFN taught me how important play is to the social and emotional development of children. So when my three-year -old became fascinated with pirates I knew how necessary it was to pretend to be Captain Hook and spend hours searching the backyard for hidden treasure. When our four-year-old was diagnosed with a rare medical condition and my wife and I were feeling overwhelmed, we had the support of the whole, wonderful community that comprises the MFN.
In addition to giving us encouragement, guidance, and support in raising our families, the MFN gave us a sense of community. Medford is the city in which I live, but the MFN helped it become my home. The friendships I have made at the MFN make a city of 56,000 feel a small town.”
The Children’s Trust received support from The TJX Companies, Inc., and Boston College High School students and staff to create the shoe display. Following the event, the shoes were given to families that participate in programs funded by the Children’s Trust.