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Essential Agents of Change Award Recipients


Massachusetts Essentials for Childhood (MA EfC) MA EfC is a statewide public health campaign, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for the next four years, to prevent child abuse and neglect. It is focused on systems change, and on the level of shifting the culture and context in which child abuse and neglect currently exist. Toward that end, we are charged with shifting a norm (MA has chosen promoting community social connection) and improving economic support for families with children. The program builds on important family strengthening initiatives already underway in the state to develop an integrated, multi-sector and community-based approach.

The program is led by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH),. Other organizations currently leading MA EfC include the Massachusetts Children’s Trust, MA Dept. of Early Education and Care, MA Dept. of Children and Families, ACEs Connection, and the Boston Public Health Commission. Many more organizations are involved with Collective Impact Teams (CITs) that have been advancing work around project goals (and all are welcome to join a Collective Impact Team).  

EFCThe intellectual lynchpin of Essentials is to look at child abuse and neglect as a public health problem, based on compelling research on the power of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) to effect health at all stages of life, and how Five Protective Factors can act as an antidote to damaging health effects of ACEs:

1. Parental Resilience;
2. Social Connections;
3. Concrete Supports;
4. Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development;
5. Social/Emotional Competence of Children  

The mission of Massachusetts Essentials for Childhood is to promote safe, stable, nurturing, environments and relationships for the communities in which we live, learn, and work. We promote community social connection and foster collective responsibility for the wellness of families so that regardless of race or socio-economic status, all children can thrive as well as consider the emerging research on the Health Outcomes of Positive Experience (HOPE).


Over the past few years, EfC has honored thirteen different organizations as an Essential Agent of Change because of all the work they do (or have done) to promote one of the protective factors above even though the overall purpose of each organization is not to prevent child abuse and neglect. But the reality is that this is one of the effects of the work of each organization which is the reason EfC has honored them. The aim is to illuminate all the different ways in which organizations, communities, and individuals can collectively have an impact on the wellbeing of children and families. The following are all recipients of an Essential Agents of Change Award. 


Suffolk County Family Matters Program for Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development: 
MAEFC8The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Departments Family Matters program assists House of Correction residents and their families working towards positive relationships that strengthen the family unit. The program’s goals are to improve communications of the incarcerated person with their children and family members while incarcerated and to connect the entire family to support services where needed.  The program promotes the protective factor of knowledge of parenting and child development through relationship-building and connecting families to community resources with the ultimate objectives of mindful parenting for the healthy development of children, healthy relationships, breaking cycles of incarceration and reducing recidivism. 

Hilltown Families for Parental Resilience: 
MAEFC10Hilltown Families brings community members of all ages together throughout the four counties of Western Massachusetts through community-based education opportunities. Utilizing an online communication network, the organization connects families to opportunities and resources in the community which foster children’s education and interests and encourages a culture of intentional, self-directed learning. The organization promotes parental resilience and resilient communities through these opportunities which bring community members together, create networks of support, and promote community engagement. By making information accessible through an online communication network, the organization connects families to opportunities and resources in the community which foster children’s education and interests and encourages a culture of intentional, self-directed learning.

Ivy Child International for Encouraging Social-Emotional Learning:
MA EFC13Ivy Child International (Ivy Child) is a nonprofit organization which provides mindfulness education to children and families in diverse educational systems and communities, with a special focus on urban populations. Ivy Child's Mindfulness-Based Learning (MBL) curriculum encourages social-emotional learning through a combination of meditation, deep breathing, creative movement, and the arts. All programs provide participants with mindful tools to increase awareness and focus, improve self-regulation, manage stress, build resilience, cultivate social and emotional intelligence, and develop healthy habits for life. Ivy Child also works comprehensively with city, school system, healthcare, and public safety administration to provide professional development. Staff learn mindfulness strategies to develop a system-wide practice that can be incorporated into work, service, and life. In combination, Ivy Child’s programming encourages a systems approach to social-emotional learning. 

Lawrence Community Works for Concrete Supports: 
MAEFC9Lawrence Community Works strives to create safe and vibrant neighborhoods filled with empowered residents through community planning and organizing, asset-building efforts, high quality affordable housing, and commercial development. The organization supports the protective factor of concrete supports through affordable housing, job search assistance, financial literacy training, homeownership education, and through network organizing efforts (including events for community members to form connections to increase social capital, employment, resource, and friendship opportunities). Lawrence Community Works has generated over $70 million in new neighborhood investments, which includes 230 affordable housing units, 3 new playgrounds, a community center, and many family asset building and youth development efforts which contribute to equitable development and economic justice in Lawrence. Lawrence Community Works was a key partner in the community to assist families recovering from the gas explosions in 2018.


Embrace Race for Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development: AwardEmbrace Race is an innovative, multiracial organization dedicated to giving parents, teachers, experts, and other caring adults the tools they need to navigate conversations about race with children. The organization supports the knowledge of parenting and child development protective factor through identification and creation of tools, resources, discussion spaces, and networks needed to help caregivers nurture resilience in children of color. Embrace Race also supports caregivers to nurture racially brave and inclusive children of all stripes, and helps caring adults and children become effective racial justice advocates for all children.

Eastern Bank for Parental Resilience: 
PinkEastern Bank is America’s oldest and largest mutual bank with 120 locations serving communities in eastern Massachusetts, southern and coastal New Hampshire and Rhode Island. The bank is known for its outspoken advocacy and community support that has topped more than $100 million in charitable giving over the past 20 years. The Eastern Bank Charitable Foundation works to ensure that “all our neighbors have equal access to employment, education, healthcare, housing, childcare, healthy meals, and other essential support services.” Eastern Bank was honored as an Essential Agent of Change for having an inclusive policy for paid family and medical leave for its employees.

Wee the People for Social and Emotional Competence of Children:
AwardsWee the People is an arts-based series of programming and events for kids exploring social justice and the power of protest. Through innovative, kid-focused programming, the project encourages social and emotional learning by inspiring children to discover their own voices, explore the tradition of protests though and visual and performing arts, and empower parents to start conversations about race, class, and difference with age-appropriate tools and vocabulary. Wee the People has organized events on a variety of complicated subjects, such as the Women’s March, gender identity, and issues surrounding immigration and refugees. 

Massachusetts Law Reform Institute for Concrete Support in Times of Need: 
Mass LawThe Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (MLRI) is a statewide nonprofit poverty law and policy center. Its mission is to advance economic, racial and social justice through legal action, policy, advocacy, coalition building, and community outreach. The institute aims to ensure that low-income and underserved populations in Massachusetts are provided with the same rights, liberties and legal protections as other members of society and provides expertise, technical assistance, and support to local legal services providers and community-based advocacy organizations serving low-income people. MLRI provides concrete support in times of need by focusing on giving parents the skills they need to advocate for themselves and their children in order to retain housing and other benefits they need to survive and thrive. 


New Lease for Homeless Families for Concrete Support in Times of Need: MAEFC3New Lease for Homeless Families is a Massachusetts non-profit organization comprised of affordable housing owners and shelters that places homeless families into permanent housing. The organization adopted the first HUD-approved family homelessness preference in HUD multifamily housing, which is a model now replicated across the country. New Lease for Homeless Families has developed an innovative solution to get homeless families into longer-term leases that they would otherwise not qualify for, through public/private partnerships and collaboration with state and federal regulatory agencies. 

The Children’s Room for Parental Resilience:
MAEFC1The Children’s Room promotes parental resilience during stressful and distressing times by providing services to help parents and children cope with their grief related to the death of a parent or sibling. The Children’s Room provides opportunities for parents to meet each other and talk about their own experiences parenting a grieving child through programming such as family nights, parenting while grieving series, and a support group for parents. 

Toxic Soil Busters for Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development: summit 3
Toxic Soil Busters
is an impressive youth-run cooperative in Worcester that supports child development by reducing children’s potential lead exposure through lead soil testing, lead-safe landscaping services, and outreach and education services about lead and environmental justice. The organization emphasizes peer leadership, youth empowerment, and community as youth tackle the critical public health issue of lead exposure in children.    

Somerville Arts Council for Social Connections:  
MAEFC7The Somerville Arts Council is a model for promoting a sense of community and fostering relationships.  Their efforts are varied and numerous, including PorchFest, MovieFest, Puppetpalooza, Intercambio Language and Cultural Exchange, ArtsUnion, and SomerStreets. Somerville’s diverse community members participate in the wide range of programming together, forming a sense of community and new relationships among local children, teens, and adults.

Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art for Social and Emotional Competence of Children:
Summit 1The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst preserves and displays picture books and illustrations from around the world. In addition to the Museum, the non-profit offers educational programs and events for families and schoolchildren, teaching parents how to interact with books in ways that engage their children and foster communication. By inspiring a love of art and reading for children and families, they encourage children’s social and emotional competence and promote their lifelong well-being. 

The 2019 Essential Agent of Change Recipients will be announced at our upcoming summit. 

Details on the event thus far are: 

  1. Date: October 23, 2019
  2. Time: 9:00 AM - 3 :30 PM
  3. Space: Tower Hill, Boylston MA
  4. Content: 
    1. Keynote: Focus on Racial Equity frameworks that can help provide context for the work that attendees do to prevent child maltreatment in the community.
      1. Ben Duncan from Multnomah County. 
    2. Presenting the Essential Agents of Change awards to demonstrate the various ways in which community members and organizations can help to prevent child maltreatment.
    3. Interactive work on the goals of Essentials via a World Café model and other interactive features of the day.


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