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Family Connections is an initiative to support early childhood programs in their mental health outreach to families facing adversities, particularly parental depression. Family Connections provides supportive educational materials and services.

Our mission

Family Connections' mission is based on four key assumptions:

  • Families with young children are often in difficult situations — including poverty, exposure to violence, and social isolation.
  • Depression is a common response to such difficulties. Research reports that nearly 48 percent of Early Head Start parents identify as being depressed (MPR, 2002).
  • Professionals working in early childhood programs are also at risk for experiencing depression.
  • These difficulties affect the ability of parents and staff to effectively relate with other adults. In turn, this affects the experience of the children at home and while in the early childhood program.

Our goals

Based on these four assumptions, Family Connections' goal is to build early childhood program professionals' ability to engage parents, especially those who may suffer from depression. We also advocate for the importance of self-reflection, perspective-taking, and self-care in professional development and in supporting parents' growth. Our staff helps early childhood programs develop resource and referral plans to respond to child and adult mental health needs. And finally, it is our aim to provide information and system-wide mental health consultation regarding depression and emotional health to centers and home-based systems of care that serve families with young children.

Our approach

Our approach is based on the idea that parents can best be reached by helping them be more effective parents and that depression negatively affects their parenting. We emphasize the importance of building relationships and supporting positive communication between parents, children, and early childhood program staff. We work with early childhood programs to provide opportunities for parents and staff to build their capacity to cope with depression and related adversity while fostering resilience in children and adults.

Family Connections is a program of Boston Children's Hospital. Family Connections was launched in 2003 as an initiative to support early childhood programs in their mental health outreach to families facing adversities, particularly parental depression. Through an Innovation and Improvement Grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Head Start, as well as from key community partners, Family Connections has designed and implemented an innovative preventive intervention model in 10 Head Start and Early Head Start centers in the Boston area. In our partnerships, we have provided training, mental health consultation, classroom interventions, and ongoing supervision to staff.

Family Connections staff

  • Catherine Ayoub, EdD, MN, RN: Executive Director and Principal Investigator
  • William R. Beardslee, MD: Senior Consultant and Principal Investigator
  • Patricia Brady, MS, LMHC, LMFt: Clinical Services Director
  • Emily Callejas, EdM: Training and Service Coordinator
  • Adam Von Ende, MA: Research Assistant
  • Brette Wolff, MA, EdM, CAS, LAC: Mental Health Consultant
  • Marlies Zammuto: Touchpoints Liaison