Horizons for Homeless Children Joins Brazelton Touchpoints Center’s Site Network to Deliver Better Outcomes for Children and Parents

Roxbury, MA (February 5, 2018) — Horizons for Homeless Children, a Massachusetts-based non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of young homeless children and their families, has announced plans to become part of the Brazelton Touchpoints Center’s Site Network, a national and international learning community of organizations and systems of care actively using the Touchpoints approach in their family engagement strategies.

The Brazelton Touchpoints Center, founded in 1996 by Dr. T. Berry Brazelton and his colleagues, is based at Boston Children’s Hospital, a Harvard Medical School teaching hospital. The organization’s professional development programs are based on the Touchpoints Approach to family engagement, an evidence-based approach and training program designed to assist family-facing professionals in using a strengths-based mindset to engage families more effectively, and to partner with them during the critical and challenging periods of child and family development.

As a provider of early education and support for young children experiencing homelessness, the leadership team at Horizons recognized the need for a deeper understanding of early childhood development for all staff, particularly as it relates to the unique experience of family homelessness. The Touchpoints philosophy has given the staff a toolkit of principles and perspectives that are helping them reach better outcomes with parents.

“The experience of homelessness results in trauma for children and families, and this unique vulnerability makes the Touchpoints curriculum particularly valuable to the population Horizons serves,” said Clinical Psychologist and Touchpoints Trainer, Jayne Singer, PhD.  “Horizons’ investment in this training demonstrates how committed the organization is to helping the entire family overcome the impact of their negative experiences.”

As part of the Touchpoints training, teachers and all staff at Horizons are learning about the touchpoints – which are the moments in a child’s development marked by progress and regression. These moments provide opportunities to support “parent mastery,” acknowledging the parent is the expert of their child. The program includes three full days of training and six months of reflective practice where Horizons teachers and staff can apply, process and share with their peers the application of their learning.

The first cohort of Horizons program participants to receive the training concludes their work in April, when the second cohort begins. Horizons’ goal is for all employees to receive this training over the course of the next 18 months. Funded by a generous donor, the training is already paying dividends.

“The training is helping us be more sensitive to the families with whom we’re working. Because of the experience of homelessness, they’re often coming to us feeling judged, sometimes defensive about their life and parenting choices,” said Jayd Rodrigues, center director at Horizons. “The Touchpoints training helps us to pause, listen and reframe our thinking and conversations so we are a source of encouragement and support.”

“My interactions with parents have changed as a result of this training,” said Lead Preschool Teacher Lisa Crowley. “I noticed recently that one of my students was consistently arriving late to school. Instead of jumping right into the issue with his mom, I started with a question about how things were going with her family. Through that approach, we were able to look at the situation together, coming up with a plan that was collaborative, not prescriptive. She felt supported and I felt like we’d addressed the issue and found a solution that could work.”

Horizons for Homeless Children is leading the way in the nonprofit field by bringing excellent professional development opportunities to its staff. The Touchpoints training complements the academic opportunities Horizons recently made available to all employees in collaboration with Lesley University, and these investments in career development serve to both enrich employees lives and improve outcomes for the families they support.

“Our work with the Touchpoints curriculum is bringing value to the children and families we serve in two ways. First, our teachers and our staff are learning strategies for building relationships with parents that empower them as the experts on their child. This is fundamental to preparing children for school readiness,” said Kate Barrand, program participant and CEO of Horizons for Homeless Children. “Second, it is helping us as an organization be more thoughtful about how we approach each other and our work. The principles bubble over to all our interactions, by helping us be more self-aware and respectful so that we can build the relationships that lead to personal and professional success.”

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