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Room to Grow: Mothers helping mothers

Updated:

BOSTON (FOX 25 / MyFoxBoston.com) - A Boston non-profit called Room to Grow has just been named the national headquarters for the formerly New York-based agency.

The parenting organization was founded in the late 1990s by Julie Burns, the wife of documentary filmmaker Ken Burns.

Just a few months ago, Boston's Executive Director was named the national CEO, taking over for Burns, and the agency moved into a new space on Berkeley Street.

CEO Saskia Epstein, sister-in-law of former Red Sox GM, Theo Epstein, may be part of a prominent Boston family now, but she can still very much identify with some of the tremendous challenges her organization's clients are facing.

"My adolescence was turbulent," Epstein told FOX 25's Heather Hegedus. "It led me to make a choice to not finish high school. I was really struggling and making poor choices for my health."

But Epstein eventually found her calling in social work. Today, she is one of several members of the Room to Grow staff who also happen to be mothers – giving them the unique ability to be able to relate to their clients in a mother-to-mother way.

The program is designed to help low-income mothers who don't have a family support system navigate the challenges of motherhood. Most of the clients are referred to the agency by birthing hospitals or community-based health centers. Participants must make a 3-year commitment during their third trimester of pregnancy.

"The period of development that is happening - social, emotional, physical, cognitive development, that is happening in it's earliest years - and is really on a trajectory that is so steep, it's really the best opportunity to intervene," explained Epstein.

The families must be willing to visit Room to Grow every three months to meet with a social worker for two hours because the agency is making a huge investment in each mother.

In return, families are sent home each visit with basic necessities such as blankets, clothing, shoes, coats, and toys. Each visit they also take home a handful of children's books, and by the time they "graduate" the program, they have a whole library of books for their child or children. Much of it is donated, and then painstakingly sorted and organized by volunteers so that when families come into Room to Grow, they feel like the resources are plentiful.

But even more important than the free stuff, what mothers really get out of Room to Grow is a listening ear and a place for them to park their troubles.

"We know that facing life's challenges on your own decreases your ability to succeed...some of the ways that we help parents is by affirming their own strengths,"

Room to Grow is always looking for donations and volunteers from individuals to corporations.

For more information on getting involved, go to www.roomtogrow.org.