Parenting programs expand to meet the need in San Antonio
By Shannon P., Parenting Programs Manager
There are many things that make me proud to be a San Antonion. There's nothing quite like Fiesta–San Antonio's annual celebration; I love my Spurs and the beauty of the Riverwalk is unmatched. Unfortunately, San Antonio beats out other cities in a couple of other not-so-impressive categories. For example, according to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, nearly one in six adults in San Antonio do not have a high school diploma. And, Bexar County ranks second in the state for incidents of child abuse and neglect. What's more troubling, in 2013, Bexar County had the highest number of repeat victims in the state–children who are re-victimized after their families have gone through Child Protective Services.
I dedicated my career to families. Prior to joining Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas, Inc. (MHM), I worked with city government supporting strong family units through education and prevention. I know there are programs that work. I know that there are parents, guardians and caretakers that are enriched through the variety of family and parenting programs available. I hear first-hand testaments from participants of MHM's parenting programs all the time, "I know now how to be a parent, a better disciplinarian." I have dads tell me, "I've learned how to control my anger and to express myself in a healthy way." These programs change people's lives, truly.
But with a need so strong, how do I begin to position myself in all the places I can so others are aware of the free parenting programs like peer support groups and classes that MHM has to offer in San Antonio and throughout South Texas? With a need so strong, there has to be a way to become a frontline resource, I contemplated.
Then, after discovering the disturbing and heartbreaking statistics issued by the Texas Department of Family and Protectives Services, I began to brainstorm ways I could position MHM's parenting programs to be a part of the family services process. We already have countless families benefitting from our programs, but the numbers don't lie–there are more individuals that need help.
With that, we decided we needed to expand the program to a new population outside of the Wesley Health & Wellness Center, operated by MHM, and the community sites we partner with to provide parenting programs. A few months ago, we established a Meld Parent Support Group and began to offer the Nurturing Parenting Program® at the Bexar County Mentally Impaired Offenders Facility, a special residential facility for offenders with documented mental health challenges. Additionally, we started a Nurturing Parenting Program® at Fabian Dominquez, a state jail in San Antonio, and at the Bexar County Jail where we work with the work-release population in hopes of teaching inmates parenting skills as they are about to re-enter society and reunite with their children. We also plan to expand to reach the ever-growing military population in San Antonio. Classes have already started at Lackland Air Force Base and plans are in the works to have programs offered at Fort Sam Houston as well.
Although the statistics I discovered alarmed me and are greatly troubling, I am optimistic in the vitality of the city I love and rigor of Texans. MHM hasn't given up in the 20 years they've been serving those in need, nor will I.