Navigating Family Life in Shelby County and Beyond
“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
— Frederick Douglass (1818-1895)
This quote from the famous American statesman, abolitionist, and social reformer sums up the philosophy behind CSSMV’s expansion of parenting services in the Northern Counties Office in Sidney. Collectively called the Navigating Family Life programs, the parenting services coordinated by Michelle Dilts-Gibson are being made possible by grant money from the Shelby County United Way, in partnership with the Shelby County Juvenile Court and the Ohio Children’s Trust Fund.
“People need to understand that when they become parents, they enter a world of higher responsibility,” said Dilts-Gibson. “They are now entrusted with the huge task of molding a young life. Unfortunately, some just don’t have skill sets, or there is a gap in skills because of how they were parented. It’s our job to help them navigate the waters of both life and parenting, which can often be a challenge.”
CSSMV is providing services for Shelby County Juvenile Court’s IMPACT program, funded by the Shelby County United Way. IMPACT, which stands for “Imagine Making Positive Changes Together,” is designed to help youth who are facing obstacles to academic, social, and community success. Families accepted into this six-month program receive support, counseling, and assistance to develop a positive future for their children.
Using the “Nurturing Parenting” curriculum, Dilts-Gibson empowers the family with tools for creating positive reinforcement of good behaviors. “There is no one set path that works for everyone,” she noted. “All families are a work in progress, but children are going to mimic the behaviors they’re exposed to at home, both good and bad. By modeling good behaviors, the program steers parents into making better choices.”
The curriculum helps parents learn about adult-child activities that promote child development and learning. It also teaches strategies for developing positive parenting and disciplinary skills within the context of each unique family. The curriculum is augmented by home visits that provide one-on-one guidance to help family members work as a team.
While juggling full-time employment and family responsibilities, even the most well-intentioned parents can become overwhelmed. Grandparents raising grandchildren, single-parent homes, and shared custody arrangements are even more susceptible to difficulties. Parenting grandparents, a growing population, often find it hard to readjust to being mom and dad again when they take over a family in trouble.
While those who enter the IMPACT program do so through court intervention, families referred by area schools and social service agencies (as well as self-referrals) can also follow the Nurturing Parenting curriculum and receive home visits. CSSMV can work with these families for up to two years using funding from the Ohio Children’s Trust Fund.
CSSMV also provides monthly classes for “Children in the Middle,” a program that is court-ordered for divorcing parents. In this program, parents learn how to co-parent without putting children in the awkward position of choosing sides. Children need to feel loved and nurtured even if adults cannot come to terms. Otherwise, the ensuing trauma can create problems for children in varying degrees depending on their ages. For example, teens are more likely to turn to substance abuse or have trouble managing anger or other emotions. Younger children may withdraw, have trouble sleeping, or become preoccupied with reunification fantasies.
“It may sound cliché, but it truly takes a village,” said Dilts-Gibson. “We as a community owe it to our young people to help their parents prepare them for life. Life will not always be perfect, but an ounce of prevention can lead to better outcomes for all.”