Horizons at Harvard's Maternal & Child Health Symposium

Photo Credit: Sara Liz Photography “Sheltered”

Photo Credit: Sara Liz Photography “Sheltered”

There is unpanned gold in every soul you run into, no matter what walk of life they are from.

Ayesha Rodriguez, Horizons’ Director of Family Partnerships, recently served as one of the panelists at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Maternal and Child Health Symposium where she shared what Horizons for Homeless Children is doing to address the growing and complex issue of family homelessness.  Other symposium speakers offered valuable insights into the trends, interventions and advocacy efforts happening in Massachusetts related to this critical issue.

This quote from Robert Downey Junior captures the essence of the work she and her team do. By using a strengths based lens, Ayesha and her team are able to work in partnership with parents to identify skills, talents and other abilities that are equal to gold in terms of value.  These skills are matched with opportunities for growth so parents can move toward accomplishing their individual objectives for success.  In this way, the team is able to mine the gold or personal power within each family.

Ayesha emphasized the importance of establishing relationships with parents to foster a sense of community and promote personal growth and development. Working together, Horizons’ combats homelessness using a two generation model where the objective is clear; when parents succeed, so do their children.

As guidance for those in attendance at the symposium, Ayesha spoke about a few of the practices she and her team employ when working with families:

  • Respond with wonder versus judgement. Listening without judgment is powerful and goes a long way toward forging a relationship.
  • Convey compassion versus pity.  Pity creates distance whereby compassion creates a safe space that allows the parent to feel both vulnerable and empowered.
  • Create shared agreements. Trying to force the relationship with the parent won’t be successful. Shared agreements allow the parent to have ownership in the process, supporting mutual accountability.
  • Celebrate successes and good effort. Immediate outcomes are not the only measure of success. Building resilience and grit are meaningful ways to make progress too. Celebrating self and effort strengthens one’s sense of agency and reinforces resilience, a key factor in sustainable progress.

“When partnering with families, it’s important to recognize that a partnership looks different to each individual,” explained Ayesha. “You have to think, what will this connection look like to them and what will make it meaningful for them?”

While there are great challenges at the macro level, the work that Horizons’ Family Partnerships Program is doing is positively impacting the lives of one family at a time.

 

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