Bringing Families Together: Building Community

[Music] Narrator: Engaging
parents can have powerful results. It can create a whole
new community for families and their
children. Science has
shown that strong, positive relationships
between parents and their
children are critical to healthy
development and that parents’
connections to friends, neighbors, the
community as a whole, is equally
important to helping them
be good parents. Joshua Sparrow:
Humans are social animals. We really need to be
connected to other people when we’re
raising our children. And when parents
are alone and isolated, they’re really
burdened by their stress and they don’t have
anybody to unload it on. And it actually
has been shown that when parents
are all by themselves and isolated,
they may be more at risk of developing
depression and even of abusing
their children because
of the isolation. So, it’s really critical
to do everything that we can to connect
parents to each other. Narrator: Connections to programs can
make a difference for families, too. Children and families
form close relationships with program
staff that can open up opportunities
for growth. At Sheltering Arms
in Atlanta, Georgia, parent and family
engagement is a foundation of all
they do. Steven White:
Some of the ways that we engage
relationships with our families is
just that personal, one-on-one
interaction that we have with our families
here as a staff, not only in
the classroom but out of
the classroom. We understand that
our relationships and the success that
we ultimately have here at the facility,
heavily relies on the — the personal nature
to which we interact with our families
day to day. Narrator: But
Sheltering Arms realizes that relationships
don’t end with the staff. Programs can
play a vital role in helping families
connect with peers and create an even
stronger community of support. Mom 1: I anticipated
that she would be slower, but she
actually isn’t. And I just thought
it was pretty interesting that she was
a lot different than my two
oldest children. Narrator: They’ve
created programs that get parents
directly involved not only with
positive relationships with their children,
but in the life of the center and all its
families. One of those programs
is called Legacy Moms. Maria Russell: We
meet every single week, and it’s moms in
infant/toddler classrooms where they just come
together and they just talk about whatever’s
going on in their lives. Mom 2: All these
kids are potty training. Woman 1:
That’s awesome. Mom 2: So it’s — what is that?
— 18 kids potty training. You just come and
talk about whatever, breastfeeding, or whatever
we were going through. It just seems like
we all kind of went through
it together. Mom 3: Whatever
character they like, that’s what type
of underwear I bought. So, like Bob
the Builder. We don’t peepee
on Bob the Builder. Maria:
What it brings out in moms
is different than any other
meeting that happens. You don’t have
that kind of — kind of rich discussion
about kind of feelings, dreams for
your child. You know?
But with Legacy, it’s very
individualized. Mom 3:
He loves apples. But for him to say,
“I wanted some fruit,” I was like okay that’s
something new. [Laughter] Maria: There’s
a curriculum that goes along
with Legacy. There’s a different
topic every week, but they all relate
to each other. Mom 4: She don’t even
want to use her potty. She want to get
on the big toilet. So she going to
learn how to get up there and
everything. Maria: You know, there’s
like 15 things on here that you all have
shared with each other. And then the
last section is called Parent/Child
Time Together, where the moms actually
go and get their children and bring them into
the room for, you know, interaction time. And my role there
is to just kind of listen and model if I need to,
or talk to the moms and — about what
they’re talking about or giving them words
to use with their children if I sense that they’re
kind of at a loss. Narrator:
The results of this program
have been dramatic. For the
mothers… Maria: I’ve seen
how the weekly engagement with
the moms has sort of changed their
outlook and their attitude on how they
raise their children. Narrator:
And the children… Maria: But what I see with the
children is kind of a sense of, she’s my
go-to person. I feel safe
with her. This is my
comfort zone. Narrator: It’s having
an added benefit. Maria: They
really are sharing with each other and
becoming a kind of a community within
themselves. Narrator:
Creating a community for parents is
important for any program that wants to help
families succeed. It helps reduce stress
and feelings of isolation, and builds
networks that can support families
outside of the program. And when the kids
transition to school, these social
networks follow. Another Sheltering
Arms program is called Parent Cafe. Each week, parents
drop by for dinner, fun bonding activities,
and serious talk. Man 1: Speak from
your own experience. Use “I”
statements. Everything should
be about what — what — how I do or
how I feel. Cinnamon M.:
Parent Cafe is a group where you come in and
you can take everyday issues and turn them
into great topics. Man 2: What
helps you cope with
everyday life? Katina S.: The way
your day starts is going to dictate how it —
pretty much, what does — it sets the tone for
the rest of the day. Parents here
have good intentions; they
love their children. They want the
best for their kids. So, I was
just amazed at the conversations
at the tables. Man 2:
You was raised by your family
a certain way and then Mia was raised
a different way, and y’all had to bring
that together. Katina: It let me
know that they want the same thing
for their kids as I want
for mine. Narrator: Parents
share with one another. Mom 5: I’m
in the process of getting my daughter
adopted by my husband. So I’m very, very,
very happy about it. Laceltra T.: Parenting
is not always easy, and they always have more
tips and — and different ways to handle
certain situations. Steven: If I
guard my ear gate and I keep my mind
focused on what’s before me, you know, I can
come in here and smile. I can come in
here and be happy. Laceltra: They
have truly helped me. I’m getting
emotional; but, they have really
helped me through a lot. Because I’m
a single parent, but to just know
that you’re not alone, it kind of takes a
weight off your shoulders. Narrator: It’s become
a whole new system of support. Woman 2: Think about
a challenging time in your family;
what made you feel proud of your family
in that situation? Mom 6: When I found
out that I was pregnant, at the time — and I
didn’t have the support that I
needed. I managed to find it
through my counselors and also my peers,
as well as my children. So, they all helped
me to be able to cope with the
situation. Narrator: Parents
are engaged in a new and very
real way Rashad C.:
I wasn’t really just paying
attention. It was to the point of
just dropping the kids off and going about
my business, you know, because
I’m a dad and I got stuff
to do; you know? But as I kind of slowed
my pace down and looked at things a little bit
differently, and, you know, this is good for
the community, this is good
for me, you know, and this is good
for my daughter. Narrator: A
sense of connection and a whole new
sense of community. Rashad: I feel like
I’m in the right place, at the right time,
doing the right thing. And right now,
that’s all that matters. [Music]

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