Child and Family Institute celebrates 25 years of serving local children and parents

by Maggie Pringle on September 23, 2011

Mother and toddler at Child and Family Institute morning program

Editor’s note: The Child and Family Institute (CFI) celebrated its 25th anniversary  with a party on the Trinity Church campus last weekend.  We invited Maggie Ely Pringle, whose family was one of  CFI’S early participants and supporters, to share some memories.

In the fall of 1985, Josetta Walsh put out a call for moms to gather at Trinity Church to discuss her idea of starting the Child and Family Institute as a resource for families “to deepen and explore the richness of family and community in a changing world.”  I was one of those who answered that call, and my family had the great fortune of participating in many of the Institute’s programs over the years.  As our children grew, so did the Institute, adding new programs for older children and their parents to continue to explore ways to understand one another and grow in a supportive community of other families.

After developing and refining their programs, Josetta and co-founder Kris Goodrich traveled far and wide to train other groups to offer the programs in a variety of organizations.  The Institute is non-denominational, but continues to be housed at Trinity Church.

Toddlers at Child and Family Institute program

I think back to when our children were very young and the precious time spent at “Mornings in the Meadow,” a program for mothers and their toddlers held in a room that felt like a meadow — a green carpet on the floor and painted flowers on the walls.  The hours spent there with other mothers and their children fostered friendships that will last a lifetime and a support group that continues to this day, even though our children are grown.

As the children grew we joined “Evenings at the Hearth,” where families gathered for the evening to share dinner and discuss a topic that the children and parents would explore separately and then come together to talk about what observations had been made.  It always encouraged the conversation to continue in the car on the way home, or at the dinner table later in the week.  A few of the groups continued to meet right through high school, and I remember one particularly special gathering just before my youngest child left for college.

Many new programs have been developed over the years, some for moms to share their stories together, and now one for dads to spend special time with their children and each other.  I was at the Institute with my 28-year-old daughter a few months ago, and she was truly surprised to see about eight young boys and their mothers sharing tea together in the late afternoon. This was the very popular “Mother and Child Teas” that started in Betsy Bowden’s dining room many years ago.  One of the boys told his mom that he would rather be with her at tea than at soccer practice, even though soccer was his favorite sport!

Toddler at Child and Family Institute program

As the Institute grew, it needed additional funds to support the programs and to offer scholarships.  One of the early participants, Patty Livermore, gathered a group of us together to figure out how we could raise funds.  From that meeting, an auxiliary began that continues to this day.  The auxiliary put on the successful Queen of Hearts Balls for many years and the new parents that make up the current auxiliary continue to raise funds today by holding an auction and party for the Institute’s parents and their friends.  Those of us who are no longer actively involved still enjoy getting together several times a year at the “Star Retreat” that Kris treats us to every December.

For my family, and hundreds of others, the research and programs that have been developed at the Child and Family Institute over the past 25 years have enriched and supported us through all stages of our lives.  It is a place where there truly “love is all around us.”

Photos of  moms with their toddlers enjoying a “Morning in the Meadow” by Linda Hubbard Gulker

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