Massachusetts has expanded access to Healthy Families Massachusetts, a family support program proven to reduce child abuse and neglect, announced the Massachusetts Children’s Trust today. Effective immediately, first-time parents 23 years old and younger can enroll in the program beginning in pregnancy.
“The evidence is clear that in most cases, child abuse is preventable when we help families build resiliency so that they can weather stressful situations,” said Suzin Bartley, Executive Director of the Children’s Trust. “We can’t always prevent families from facing challenging times, but we can give them the tools to help them get through it so that all children can grow up in safe, nurturing homes. We are grateful to the Massachusetts Legislature and the Governor for recognizing the enormous impact this program has for children and families in Massachusetts.”
The eligibility change comes as part of the Commonwealth’s Fiscal Year 2022 budget. Senate Ways and Means Chairman Michael Rodrigues (D-Westport) and Representative Paul Donato (D-Medford) were instrumental in expanding access to Healthy Families Massachusetts.
“I have always been glad to support this vital program, and I was proud that the Senate led the way in the FY22 budget to expand eligibility so that Healthy Families will be able to help more parents than ever before,” said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport). “I am grateful for the tireless work of the Children’s Trust to protect children and support families across the Commonwealth.”
“The Children’s Trust is an incredible program that helps mothers and fathers navigate the unique challenges of parenting,” said Representative Paul Donato (D-Medford). “The new legislation to raise the eligibility age for mothers and fathers to 23 is an important step in ensuring the safety and support of families across the commonwealth. It’s been my honor to work with them and I look forward to our continued advancement of their initiatives in the future.”
Healthy Families Massachusetts 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, reducing incidents of abuse and neglect. The program 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.
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.
Healthy Families Massachusetts is funded mostly through federal funding and costs the Commonwealth approximately $500 per family. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one case of child abuse costs $210,000 over a lifetime.
The Children’s Trust develops programs and influences public policies by building Protective Factors that support the overall well-being of children and their families. Developed by the Center for the Study of Social Policy, the Protective Factors framework is a research-driven approach that identifies five key conditions which must be in place to support the optimal well-being of children and families. Protective Factors serve as buffers that help families cope, achieve, and thrive, even during times of stress. The five Protective Factors are: parental resilience, knowledge of parenting and child development, social connections, concrete support in times of need, and social and emotional development of children.
About the Children’s Trust
The Children’s Trust is on a mission to stop child abuse in Massachusetts. We give parents the tools and resources to build self-confidence and gain lifelong skills to ensure children grow up safe and healthy. You can learn more at childrenstrustma.org.
Alicia Curran, firstname.lastname@example.org, 407-797-2076