SHREWSBURY – Andree Gonzalez is a mom on a mission to make sure every child grows up in a healthy home.
The Children’s Trust, which is the state’s child abuse prevention agency, recently awarded Gonzalez with the Family Recognition Award during the organization’s 30th annual A View from All Sides conference.
According to The Children’s Trust, the Family Recognition Award recognizes parents and caregivers who have improved the lives of their family and community through participation in a program funded by the organization.
“For me, it was honestly surprising to hear that I got the award. And it was exciting to hear because I think, oftentimes, you don’t think about yourself in the grand scheme of a program like The Children’s Trust. To know that people saw me and saw what I did when I was within healthy families was a really nice feeling,” Gonzalez said.
Deputy Director of Programs of The Children’s Trust Sarita Rogers said Gonzalez was selected because of her enthusiasm, compassion and understanding of real-life struggles.
“These characteristics make Andree a role model for other first-time parents and the ideal honoree for the Family Recognition Award,” she said.
A Healthy Families graduate
Gonzalez is a graduate of The Children’s Trust Healthy Families program, which is a home-based family support and coaching program that supports first-time parents age 23 and under to help them create stable homes for their children.
When she was 19-years-old, Gonzalez and her high school sweetheart became pregnant with their first child.
Gonzalez said the Healthy Families program “helped her grow in so many ways” because she knew that resources to help young adults navigate parenting existed, but she didn’t know where to find them.
Specifically, she said the Healthy Families Program sent someone to her home to let her know when birthing classes took place and answer questions about her child’s health.
“Even if my home visitor didn’t know the answers to my questions, she would always give me the knowledge in a more accessible format that I was able to use — through giving birth, afterwards and when I raised my kids,” Gonzalez said.
During the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, Gonzalez became pregnant with her second child while she was in college.
Navigating the pandemic as a young mother while finishing college was challenging, Gonzalez said. But thanks to the help of the Healthy Families Program, that didn’t stop her from earning her degree in sociology and graduating magna cum laude.
“I did it all through the help of Healthy Families,” she said.
After graduating from the Healthy Families Program, Gonzalez worked as a home visitor herself, which was an experience she called “very rewarding.”
“I was able to learn so much information about how to reduce harm within children’s life, then I would use those tactics at home,” she said.
“I want my children to have a life that is filled with happiness, love, and kindness,” Gonzalez added.