SPARK Center (Supporting Parents and Resilient Kids)
The mission of the SPARK Center is to help Boston’s highest-risk children to build brighter tomorrows. SPARK provides therapeutic, medically-specialized programs for children of all ages based on the philosophy that all children are resilient and able to take control of their futures. SPARK makes long-term investments in fragile children—helping them to believe in themselves, make healthy choices, cope with emotional problems, achieve in school and gain success as adults.
The SPARK Center (formerly the Children’s AIDS Program) is a model childcare program offering comprehensive, integrated, state-of-the-art services for children and families whose lives are affected by medical, emotional and/or behavioral challenges. The program serves Boston’s highest-risk children: those living with complicated medical conditions (including neuro-developmental challenges, failure to thrive and HIV/AIDS); as well as children who are involved with the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families due to significant family and social concerns (including child abuse and neglect, domestic violence, adult substance abuse). A new group of fragile children now attend SPARK. These are ‘very low birth weight’ babies who were born too early and too small, and need our specialized care and attention. Not surprisingly, most of the children at the SPARK Center live in poverty, with parents and caregivers who struggle daily to maintain the integrity of their families.
Located in the heart of Boston’s urban community and serving more than 100 children annually, the SPARK Center represents a unique and powerful collaboration between Boston Medical Center and the Boston University School of Medicine, the Mass. Dept. of Early Education and Care, and several additional state and federal funders.
Each of these entities provides a unique contribution to SPARK’s mission of helping children to build loving relationships, positive self-regard, and community belonging. At SPARK, children learn the skills and values to succeed in school and to develop productive and rewarding adult lives. Additionally, the SPARK Center offers parents and other caregivers the support, guidance and compassionate understanding that promote strength and stability in their parenting responsibilities.
The History of The SPARK Center
The SPARK Center, originally known as the Children’s AIDS Program, was founded by the Boston Public Health Commission in 1989 in response to the pediatric AIDS crisis in Boston. It was established in its present community site in 1992, and became part of Boston Medical Center (previously Boston City Hospital) in 1995. In September 2004, through a state mandated merger with another Boston Medical Center program (Family Development Center), we expanded our mission to serve children with other medical conditions, as well as children with traumatic histories due to caregiver disruptions, loss and/or suspected abuse/neglect. As a result of this expanded mission and an increase in children served, we have adopted a more inclusive name: The SPARK Center – Supporting Parents and Resilient Kids.
Built in 1992, our sunny, cheerful SPARK Center houses state-of-the-art infant care rooms, multiple toddler and preschool classrooms, private therapy and testing rooms, a nurse’s office, a full kitchen, child-friendly spaces for specialists and administrative offices. Outside playground equipment is safe, colorful and age-appropriate, and the facility sits on a beautiful open lawn with ample play area and a lovely garden.
With the addition of a new wing in fall 2005, school-aged children and teenagers now have an after school space all to themselves complete with cozy reading spaces, multiple computers and large meeting areas. During the summer months when our Imani Village program operates, children enjoy the full benefit of all SPARK facilities, including large tented areas on our lawn for outdoor activities.