Would anyone disagree with the notion that parenting is one of the toughest jobs in the world? Having to play the role of both parents makes it that much harder.
The reasons why children end up living in single parent homes are numerous and complex, but one thing that’s beyond debate is that children who grow up with the active participation of both parents are much more likely to become the kind of adults – as well as parents themselves – we should all hope everyone would become.
In 2007, an initiative was launched in Richmond with the goal of addressing the growing numbers of absentee fathers in that city, and the impact on their children. Now that effort, refined and expanded in the years since to include mothers, has grown to include other areas of the state through the enthusiastic participation of the Virginia Department of Health.
Now known as the Virginia Family & Fatherhood Initiative, it expanded to the Hampton Roads area beginning in October, 2017 under the auspices of the Portsmouth Health District. Their grant-based program is called Stronger Parents; Brighter Futures.
“Stronger Parents; Brighter Futures is committed to helping young moms and dads ages 16-24 be a strong, resilient, and stabilizing force for themselves, as well as their children,” said DeShelle Jordan, the Regional Coordinator for the program.
The program takes a broad-based, holistic approach to tackling the problems that can interfere with good parenting. The program is free and features open enrollment, so that parents who wish to enroll may do so at any time.
The program components include:
- Evidence based Motherhood/Fatherhood Support Groups
- Co-parenting Navigation
- Comprehensive wrap around supports and intensive case management for each participant AND their families
- Educational support
- Participant incentives for program completion
Because the issues faced by every young family can differ greatly, each participant receives an individualized service plan. In a recent interview, Jordan said: “What is exciting is that we provide wraparound services for everyone in their household because the entire household impacts the child’s growth and development.”
For young parents and those expecting, the program starts with motherhood and fatherhood workshops that last 12 weeks. These are designed to teach and reinforce good parenting skills.
Often young parents lack such skills and instincts because, for one reason or another, they never learned them from their own parents. This often leads to a lack of parenting skills being a multi-generational problem in that family. One goal of the Stronger Parents; Brighter Futures initiative is to permanently disrupt this pattern.
This can be even more complicated if the young parents were themselves in any way traumatized as children. However, there are components to the program designed to specifically address this challenge.
Another important aspect of the initiative is how to address the fact that often, the relationship that led to the conception of the child or children no longer exists. This is particularly difficult to address if the parents’ former relationship ended in hostility, leading the mother and father to be estranged and unwilling to cooperate in rearing their kids.
In addressing this problem, Stronger Parents; Brighter Futures aims to find ways that both parents can identify common ground in regards to what’s best for their children. If both parents can be convinced to work together, they’ll sit down with a navigator who’ll help them come up with a co-parenting or parenting time agreement.
“Regardless of whether you’re married or single and decide to go your separate ways, you’re still a parent, and your child needs both of you, cooperating to raise your child,” Jordan said.
Perhaps the greatest challenge to young parents, and the hardest to overcome, is poverty. Statistically, there’s no greater contributor to damaged families than issues related to financial struggles, as evidenced by the fact that the numbers of those struggling with parenting are much greater in poorer communities. This too is often a multi-generational obstacle.
Stronger Parents; Brighter Futures tries to address this by steering young parents towards educational and vocational opportunities, as well helping them seek employment once they’re ready. They also make sure young parents are aware of the various community organizations they can turn to for support.
Having just launched a few months ago, the program is just now starting to bear fruit, such as with a young woman who came to the program while finishing her senior year in high school. She has since given birth to a beautiful baby girl and recently graduated with her class. She is currently plotting her next career move – considering either enlisting in the U.S. Air Force or attending traditional college.
Being a good parent is hard, but for young parents and parents-to-be who are determined to achieve this goal, DeShelle Jordan wants them to know that the resources to accomplish this are available locally, and her team is eager to help. All young mothers and fathers need to do is reach out.
“Our educational support group and extensive case management wrap around services give young moms and dads the tools and encouragement they need to realize their own successes for the health and well-being of the children,” Jordan said.
About the Sponsor of this Post:
Thank you to our sponsor on this post Virginia Department of Health. To learn more about Stronger Parents; Brighter Futures, contact DeShelle Jordan@ 757-393-8585 Ext. 8583 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Alisha Newman @757-393-8585 Ext. 8715 or email@example.com.