Rise Above Foundation and the Massachusetts Department of Children & Families (DCF) have partnered to build a playground that will strengthen family connections and promote healthy play. The Mercedes Ramirez-Newkirk Memorial Playground is located at DCF’s Worcester West Area Office and will provide a safe, healthy, and developmentally appropriate space for families who are involved with DCF to have visits with their children. On September 29, 2021, a Ribbon Cutting was held to officially open the play space.
Strengthening families: Family time allows children and parents to maintain and strengthen bonds, and can help lead to reunification, reduce time in out-of-home care, and reduce child behavior problems. The playground will provide a critical tool for social workers and parent aids to model and coach healthy parenting skills.
The power of play: Play can help children heal from trauma and regulate emotions.
Providing a private and safe environment will better allow for parents to be actively coached and mentored by social workers and parent aids, reducing stigma for children and parents, promoting trust and accelerating skill building.
Addressing an increasing need: There are approximately 500 youth in foster care in Worcester. With the multitude of mental health and economic stressors the pandemic has brought to most families, experts anticipate this number will rise sharply. The playground will support biological families in their journeys to reunite safety with their children.
Leading the way: This playground is the first and only playground at a Massachusetts DCF site.
Mercedes Ramirez-Newkirk (1976-2012) was a 14-year DCF social worker and supervisor and a co-founder of Rise Above Foundation. In this playground, her smile and joyful spirit that brightened the hearts of friends, co-workers and the youth and families she worked with, will live on.
New in 2023: A Mural for the playground! A beautiful mural by Artifakt Studios was unveiled in January. The mural is the perfect bold, bright backdrop to the play space for Worcester-area kids and families involved with the Department of Children and Families (DCF). Read more about the artist’s inspiration and personal connection to this project.
September 2021 Ribbon Cutting & Reception Photos: