Seed to Strong Root

When quarantine and stay-at-home orders swept the nation in response to COVID-19, Horizons Family Advocates were quick to recognize and acknowledge the distress and fear families were experiencing. The data was telling – 83% of parents reported they were unemployed and much of that unemployment was a result of the city-wide shutdown. Sheltering in place in cramped shared quarters with their children with concerns for their health, safety, and futures could have led to despair and a sense that all progress had been lost. Family Advocates thoughtfully adjusted their approach to bring a sense of hope back into our families’ lives.  

Goal setting and celebrating achievements within the Mobility Mentoring framework has been a core component of Horizons’ Family Partnership Program. The Family Partnerships team knew that a fresh and innovate approach to their work during this time would be vital to helping families continue their momentum forwardThey created a step by step visual and metaphoric process called ‘Seed to Strong Root’ to help families through this extremely challenging year. The philosophy is designed to support each parent as they work toward personal goals and ambitions while in quarantine or as part of the essential workforce, and beyond. 

“Self-empowerment can create a sense of comfort within,” explained Ayesha Rodriguez, Horizons’ Director of Family Partnerships. “Although we can’t control what’s happening in our world– we can take look at what is within our control.” This concept provided a solid foundation for Family Advocates outreach to parents with three important focus areas: Resilience, Manifestation and Creativity.       

Resilience reflects parents acknowledging the challenges but not allowing themselves to be beaten by them. We will get through this pandemic; we will make it through.” Ayesha stated. The power of these words provide parents confidence and strength during the hardships of their situation and the state of the world. Resilience represents the why for our families – for their children, for their mental health, for their futures, and for their family’s well-being.  

Manifestation is what we want to put in place now to determine how we get through this experience, and what we can bring about as we work through it.” Ayesha continued. “Creativity is the imaginative process we use in determining how we will get through it.” 

These three pillars of focus blossomed into the ‘Seed to Strong Root’ approach of resilience, manifestation and creativity as Family Advocates ask: ‘What are the seeds that we can plant now in our lives to make something come into fruition later? Parents are asked to identify an intention and make a commitment toward that goal, seeing it through with small but sustainable action steps day by day.  


The Seed to Strong Root approach divides into four steps, all represented by the metaphor of nurturing a symbolic plant as steps towards goal setting and achieving.  

Step one – ‘Selecting Seeds’ – is the process of determining and setting intention(s)What the parent wants to achieve and why they want to achieve it. This step provides parents the opportunity to look within, and have conversations with themselves to outline their desires and reasons behind an intention. Family Advocates help them to flesh out these details, creating a safe space for parents to be vulnerable and define what they dream to achieveThis step in the process explores overarching emotions and can often lead into a deep dive of one’s perceptions of self.  

People who have experienced repeated traumas, missteps or sense of failure may be nervous to think deeply about what they truly want,” Ayesha explained. “You’d be surprised how many people actually feel unworthy of the things they believe would make them happy or fulfilled. Selecting seeds is about creating the space and providing permission to explore, giving voice to a desire or vision for ones’ self.” A solid understanding of the why and a strong sense of ownership helps guide both Family Advocates and parents as they proceed through the Seed to Strong Root approach.  It can be used as an anchor if circumstances, people, events, or otherwise derail their progress.  “Often we have parents who have a situation occur that tries to throws them off course,” Ayesha continued. “Family Advocates are mindfully intentional in their coaching when this occurs.”  A solid foundation based on defining intentionhelps in scaffolding as Family Advocates usher parents forward in the next phase of the process.  

Step two – ‘Planting’ – focuses on generating action around their newly selected intentions and goal(s) through a detailed plan, with actionable steps the parent can take daily to get closer to their achievement. In this phase, Family advocates  incorporate SMART goal setting through the use of Mobility Mentoring with parents, ensuring the goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time Bound. 

Step three – ‘Watering and Fertilizing’  provides cultivation and focus for the parents by encouraging them to think about their goal and action steps each morning either through a list, vision board, etc. They are also encouraged to talk about their goal, and the whats and whys behind it with supportive people such as friendsfamily members, and their Family Advocate. Journaling is encouraged to track progress.  

Step four – ‘Germinating’ or ‘Blossoming’ – focuses on celebrating the big and small wins throughout the manifestation journey. Examples include parents giving themselves praise for every effort and at each phase of progress. It may even mean doing something nice for themselves as as a way of saying thank you for investing in themselves. They are encouraged to review the transformation journey and celebrate how far they’ve come throughout the process.  

The planting metaphor provides parents a visual and easy-to-grasp concept that has resonated with families throughout the philosophyTo spark ideas with parents about areas where they want to identify a goal, the team connected different plants to goal-setting categories – such as sunflowers bringing happiness into their lives, hot peppers igniting passion, morning glories bringing beauty and self-care. Different plants, vegetables and blossoms represent goals in finances, employment, healing, nutrition, wellness, courage, education and more.  

The Seed to Strong Root philosophy is a new way to help families pivot as the pandemic affected education, housing and employment related objectives previously set in place. Accessible goal setting – from completing an online certification, opening a bank account, to successfully registering for a college course – has been vital to keeping parents on track and in high spirits as the world around them continues to shift and change. Horizons understands parents are the greatest single factor in their child’s future success, and the time spent over these past several months is key to planting a seed of change and growth that cultivates into a life that is strong and can withstand opposition. 

When our families emerge from this crisis, they will be able to do so from a place of inner-fortitude and strength to say: “Not only did I make it, but I made something out of it,” Ayesha concluded with conviction. “Every goal big or small – as long as it makes a difference for them – is worthwhile.”

This piece was written by Andrea Drag, a regular contributor to Horizons’ Blog.