Serving Washington County

The Family Center of Washington County fosters the positive growth and development of young children and their families.

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For Children

Children are our most valuable resource. What a child doesn’t receive he can seldom later give.

Child Services

For Youth

Increasing the active participation and partnership with young people, to better serve them.

Youth Services

For Families

Each family has strengths and can take a primary role in its own development.

Family Services

What We Do

For Children

Child development is a process that involves learning and mastering skills like sitting, walking, talking, skipping, and tying shoes.

For Youth

Positive youth development services engage young people in intentional, productive, and constructive ways, while recognizing and enhancing their strengths.

For Families

All families should have access to economic and parenting supports to ensure all children have nurturing and stable relationships with caring adults.


“One of the most impressive programs in Vermont funded under this Act is a program to identify youth at risk of being removed from their families, and address the underlying issues. The Strengthening Families Program helps families and children with open DCF cases by facilitating access to mental health resources, counseling, substance abuse treatment, housing, childcare and transportation. The program has already proven successful, reducing the number of children removed from 30 percent of all open DCF cases to 7 to 12 percent of all cases in just 18 months.” said Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, the Ranking Member on the Judiciary Committee and its most senior member, in announcing the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Reauthorization Act of 2015 on July 23.

 


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Strengthening Families is a program designed to assist families who have an open DCF case to decrease risk factors and prevent children from entering state custody. Historically – without Strengthening Families – 30% of children with open family support cases come into state custody. In the first 18 months, the Strengthening Families Sites experienced 7% to 12% of children with open cases coming into custody, a substantial increase for the safety of children.

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Every year, Vermont saves $2,131,041 when each of Vermont’s 15 Parent Child Centers prevents:

  • One woman from entering a correctional facility;
  • One teen pregnancy.
  • One child from needing foster care placement; and
  • One mother and child from requiring public assistance.
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3,477 individuals served in Central Vermont from July 1, 2014 – June 30, 2015

Family Center News and Events

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REMINDER: There's no Dads and Kids Playgroup this Thursday, May 26, 2016. It will resume next week on June 2. ... See MoreSee Less

The summer dates for the Family Center's Playgroup for Deaf and Hearing Families and Caregivers have been set. ... See MoreSee Less

The summer dates for the Family Centers Playgroup for Deaf and Hearing Families and Caregivers have been set.

“Look at a life without play, and it’s not much of a life.”
– Dr. Stuart Brown, National Institute of Play

As we celebrate and highlight the Family Center’s wisdom to focus on offering playgroups to children and their families, I wanted to remind us of the importance of “play,” from a few different viewpoints, including the importance to attachment and relationship building between child and parent/caregiver.
Play researchers (including psychologists, social psychologists, psychiatrists, evolutionary biologists, to name a few) agree that play is part of the “developmental sequencing of becoming a human primate, (being as fundamental as) sleep and dreams.” (Stuart Brown interview in the New York Times Magazine, 2008) and that there is importance to “engaging all five senses by playing in the three-dimensional world” (more on video games below).
Researchers have done much of their study looking at other animals in their natural habitats, including species of monkeys, dogs, bighorn lambs, rats, cats and ibex! Other definitions of play include an essence of “frivolity” or purposelessness, that the animal be “stress-free and secure,” that the “sequence of actions (be) fluid and scattered” and there be variety. They confirm that play under stress becomes more complicated, that play diminishes under severe stress or trauma, yet research connected to children in concentration camps and other internment camps does show “yearning for play naturally bursting forth even amidst the horror.”
Through this research, theories have emerged as to reasons that humans and other animals “play” including:
1) Evolutionary theories which focus on play as an on-going adaptation for survival of a species and an individual, helping us to address innate existential dread (fear of dying) and expanding our ability to see different possibilities, cultivating optimism and creativity, as well as of a sense of power and control in our lives.
2) Play as preparation theory is also an evolutionary theory but focuses on the acting out, trying on and rehearsing aspects of play supporting the development of an individual becoming a functioning adult.
3) The “flexibility hypothesis” claiming play as the “best way for a young animal to gain a more diverse and responsive behavioral repertory, contributing to more supple, more flexible brains.”
Certainly all agree to the many short-term and long-term benefits of having an active “play life,” including more modern neurological research which shows play as “one important way children build complex, skilled, responsive, socially adept and cognitively flexible brains.” Research connects more “juvenile” developmental stages, where play is at its highest, with heightened growth of the cerebellum, which receives information from the sensory systems, the spinal cord, and other parts of the brain and then regulates motor movements, including posture, balance, coordination and speech.
As far as the types of play that are “best,” these researcher propose that adults be careful to not project our own definitions, i.e. imaginary play is “better” than other play or that fighting play is “bad.” The idea is to embrace (safely) exploring the light and the dark of human nature, as “the most highly adaptive organisms are those that embody both the positive and the negative” (Stephen Jay Gould, author and evolutionary biologist). Embracing rough and tumble play equally with imaginative play, spectator play, ritual play, and structured games, including video games. This can be hard to address with parents who have histories where more aggressive play might be triggering to them, or give them a sense of being out of control of the child.
“The opposite of play is not work, it’s depression.” (Dr. Stuart Brown)
Psychologists studying the effects of games on development and relationships have been doing research about video games too. We know that “playing games together has tremendous family benefits.” Jane McGonigal cites research in her TED Talk (see link below) from Brigham Young University, School of Family Life, which shows that “parents who spend time playing video games with their children have stronger ‘real life’ relationships with them.”
She talks about games as a relationship management tool, to be used to stay connected to people in your social network you might otherwise not stay in touch with. “When we play a game we tackle tough challenges with more creativity, more determination, more optimism, and we are more likely to reach out to others for help.” See her inspiring TED Talk at: www.ted.com/talks/jane_mcgonigal_the_game_that_can_give_you_10_extra_years_of_life?language=en
This reminds of me of the importance of reviewing with parents these important elements, including how to adapt playing to their child’s developmental stage, the possibility of taking a “play history” of the parents, which many play therapists do, and of the reminder that when we connect in these less task oriented ways with our children the right brain of each person becomes attuned together. It is connected to the “interpersonal neuro-regulation” that trauma researchers are talking about, which builds safety, communication, acceptance and love within a parent/caregiver-child relationship. - Jennifer Auletta, Clinical Services Director at the Family Center.
Pictured: May 19, 2016 Dads and Kids Playgroup.
... See MoreSee Less

“Look at a life without play, and it’s not much of a life.”
– Dr. Stuart Brown, National Institute of Play

As we celebrate and highlight the Family Center’s wisdom to focus on offering playgroups to children and their families, I wanted to remind us of the importance of “play,” from a few different viewpoints, including the importance to attachment and relationship building between child and parent/caregiver.
Play researchers (including psychologists, social psychologists, psychiatrists, evolutionary biologists, to name a few) agree that play is part of the “developmental sequencing of becoming a human primate, (being as fundamental as) sleep and dreams.” (Stuart Brown interview in the New York Times Magazine, 2008) and that there is importance to “engaging all five senses by playing in the three-dimensional world” (more on video games below). 
Researchers have done much of their study looking at other animals in their natural habitats, including species of monkeys, dogs, bighorn lambs, rats, cats and ibex! Other definitions of play include an essence of “frivolity” or purposelessness, that the animal be “stress-free and secure,” that the “sequence of actions (be) fluid and scattered” and there be variety. They confirm that play under stress becomes more complicated, that play diminishes under severe stress or trauma, yet research connected to children in concentration camps and other internment camps does show “yearning for play naturally bursting forth even amidst the horror.” 
Through this research, theories have emerged as to reasons that humans and other animals “play” including:
1) Evolutionary theories which focus on play as an on-going adaptation for survival of a species and an individual, helping us to address innate existential dread (fear of dying) and expanding our ability to see different possibilities, cultivating optimism and creativity, as well as of a sense of power and control in our lives.
2) Play as preparation theory is also an evolutionary theory but focuses on the acting out, trying on and rehearsing aspects of play supporting the development of an individual becoming a functioning adult.
3) The “flexibility hypothesis” claiming play as the “best way for a young animal to gain a more diverse and responsive behavioral repertory, contributing to more supple, more flexible brains.”
Certainly all agree to the many short-term and long-term benefits of having an active “play life,” including more modern neurological research which shows play as “one important way children build complex, skilled, responsive, socially adept and cognitively flexible brains.”  Research connects more “juvenile” developmental stages, where play is at its highest, with heightened growth of the cerebellum, which receives information from the sensory systems, the spinal cord, and other parts of the brain and then regulates motor movements, including posture, balance, coordination and speech.
As far as the types of play that are “best,” these researcher propose that adults be careful to not project our own definitions, i.e. imaginary play is “better” than other play or that fighting play is “bad.” The idea is to embrace (safely) exploring the light and the dark of human nature, as “the most highly adaptive organisms are those that embody both the positive and the negative” (Stephen Jay Gould, author and evolutionary biologist).  Embracing rough and tumble play equally with imaginative play, spectator play, ritual play, and structured games, including video games. This can be hard to address with parents who have histories where more aggressive play might be triggering to them, or give them a sense of being out of control of the child.
“The opposite of play is not work, it’s depression.” (Dr. Stuart Brown)
Psychologists studying the effects of games on development and relationships have been doing research about video games too. We know that “playing games together has tremendous family benefits.” Jane McGonigal cites research in her TED Talk (see link below) from Brigham Young University, School of Family Life, which shows that “parents who spend time playing video games with their children have stronger ‘real life’ relationships with them.”
She talks about games as a relationship management tool, to be used to stay connected to people in your social network you might otherwise not stay in touch with. “When we play a game we tackle tough challenges with more creativity, more determination, more optimism, and we are more likely to reach out to others for help.” See her inspiring TED Talk at: https://www.ted.com/talks/jane_mcgonigal_the_game_that_can_give_you_10_extra_years_of_life?language=en
This reminds of me of the importance of reviewing with parents these important elements, including how to adapt playing to their child’s developmental stage, the possibility of taking a “play history” of the parents, which many play therapists do, and of the reminder that when we connect in these less task oriented ways with our children the right brain of each person becomes attuned together.  It is connected to the “interpersonal neuro-regulation” that trauma researchers are talking about, which builds safety, communication, acceptance and love within a parent/caregiver-child relationship.  - Jennifer Auletta, Clinical Services Director at the Family Center.
Pictured: May 19, 2016 Dads and Kids Playgroup.

Events Calendar

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Fri 27

Worcester Playgroup

May 27 @ 9:30 am - 11:00 am
Sat 28

Saturday Morning Playgroup

May 28 @ 9:30 am - 11:00 am