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New Family Support Center Celebrated


A leading child welfare organization in Massachusetts is opening a new family support center in Springfield, a city plagued by high rates of poverty and child abuse and neglect.

 The Children’s Trust is partnering with the pre-school provider Square One to open the organization’s eighth family center in the state.  The centers are described as community hubs where people go to get support navigating the joys and challenges of parenting.

Children’s Trust Executive Director Suzin Bartley said the centers teach parenting skills, provide support during times of stress, let families connect with each other and get access to community resources.

" It gives parents who want the best for their children -- and most parents do -- a place to come, get support, learn and grow," said Bartley.

There are Family Centers programs supported by the Children’s Trust in North Adams, Athol-Orange and Greenfield in western Massachusetts.  The program served 15,000 families statewide last year.

Ninety-three percent of participants in the program in 2015 reported stress levels had gone down. 91 percent said they had learned age-appropriate parenting skills and discipline techniques.

" If families themselves feel they are less stressed, more capable of parenting their children, understand their child's developmental stages, then we are all going to do better, said Bartley.

She  said the organization is very excited to open its first family support center in Springfield.

" It was a competitive process, but the leadership here at Square One, their plan, the depth of the proposal, and the need in Springfield meant this was a perfect place to put another family center," said Bartley.

Square One President and CEO Joan Kagan said the family support center will operate at two existing early childhood education centers on Main Street and King Street.  The services offered are free of charge.

"  It expands and enhances what we are already doing," explained Kagan. " It gives us the opportunity to designate one person to ensure the activities at the family center are meeting the needs, so we can provide more and different types of services."

Kagan said the staff at the two  locations reflect the culture, linguistic, racial, and ethnic diversity of Springfield.

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno welcomed the decision by The Children’s Trust to open its newest family support center in Springfield.

" Its tough to be a parent. But to have someone there to help with the trials and tribulations and just to say ' we are going to get through this' I think is invaluable," said Sarno.

The Children’s Trust was created by the Massachusetts Legislature in 1988 to prevent child abuse and neglect.

The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.
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