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Parent gone pro: Diane Hastings celebrates 10 years at NHCT

June 1, 2016

Diane Hastings is a seasoned veteran here at NH Children’s Trust. With 10 years under her belt, she has held numerous titles and experienced a total restructuring of the agency. Naturally, Diane has become a staple of the organization, but her journey to Communications Director was anything but ordinary.

As a recent graduate with her master’s in geography, the field of family support was nowhere on her radar, but that all changed when she left her home state, moved to New Hampshire and gave birth to her first child. With her husband gone during the day and family so far away, Diane often found herself home alone with her baby.

“There were lots of children in the neighborhood – you could see the bikes and toys all over,” Diane said. “But no one was ever home.”

As a first-time mother and Kentucky transplant, Diane felt isolated. When Concord Hospital referred her to her local family resource center, The Children’s Place and Parent Education Center, she was excited to meet other parents. She made social connections and met people who were in situations similar to her own.

Diane began attending parent support groups regularly and became a volunteer at the center. As her enthusiasm for family support and strengthening grew, so did her opportunities. She earned a spot on The Children’s Place’s board of directors, served as board president and eventually became the executive director – a position she held for almost six years.

“I don’t know how I would’ve done it without my local family resource center,” Diane said. “I honestly think I’m a much different parent because of it.”

Diane joined NH Children’s Trust in 2005 as the special projects coordinator. Since then, she has worn many hats and seen the agency make a 180. In 2011, NH Children’s Trust went from being a quasi-governmental organization that provided funding to programs through mini-grants to a private 501(c)(3), supporting providers, families and children through preventative programs such as the Period of PURPLE Crying, Healthy Families America and the Strengthening Families Protective Factors Framework.

“I always thought of child abuse in terms of intervention; I didn’t realize prevention was an option,” Diane said. “All families need that support right from the start. You don’t realize you’re a part of that.”

In her 10 years with NH Children’s Trust, Diane sees this as one of the organization’s biggest obstacles. When addressing child abuse and neglect, our best option – prevention – is often overlooked. The State currently does not invest general funds in child maltreatment prevention, and getting society to realize the value of prevention is an ongoing struggle.

But for any of the agency’s setbacks, Diane is quick to point out so many successes. NH Children’s Trust’s staff and board members have worked tirelessly to make huge strides in their strategic plan. Today, 96% of New Hampshire parents receive the Period of PURPLE Crying education to prepare them for a developmental period of increased infant crying and prevent abusive head trauma. The organization has delved into advocacy, making speaking up for children more accessible to parents. Thousands of New Hampshire providers have been exposed to the Strengthening Families Framework, and more than 200 parents have been recognized for embedding the Protective Factors in their lives. Recently, NH Children’s Trust took an important step in defining and promoting quality practice by establishing a designation process of Family Resource Centers of Quality to create confidence in families, funders and staff of these programs and raise professionalism in the programs and the field.

“More and more, we have been approached by funders and other nonprofit organizations, congratulating us and asking for help with strategizing,” Diane said.

In 2015, NH Children’s Trust was recognized by the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation for Excellence in Nonprofit Management and by Town Square Media for their Year of Service Award. Over the last 10 years, NH Children’s Trust has truly become a leader in its field.

Although Diane is now a seasoned veteran in the field, she was introduced to family support and strengthening through something very organic – becoming a parent. Her unique experience shows in her down-to-earth advice.

“Get to know your neighbors,” she said. “Be active. Create those connections. Don’t be afraid to say to that mom with a toddler having a temper tantrum, ‘I’ve been there.’

“When you see families’ weaknesses instead of strengths, you’re coming from a deficit. It’s important to educate society about caring communities.”

On that note, Diane didn’t forget to laud one of her personal communities: the office at NH Children’s Trust.
“We have a good team,” she said. “I really am looking forward to our future.”