In our new series of blog posts, A Day in the Life, we are pleased to take you behind the scenes at Home Start to introduce you to members of our dedicated staff that are committed to building resilient children and strengthening local families. Step into their shoes for a moment as they serve on the front lines to prevent child abuse in San Diego.
What Home Start program do you work for?
I am a Family Support Partner (FSP) for our Community Services for Families (CSF) program in the central region.
What drives you to do what you do?
As a Family Support Partner, we are only part of the family’s life for a short period of time, a couple of months to a year. We hope to plant the seeds of change in the family and give them the tools to cope with life’s challenges in a healthy way. Being able to see successes, however small, along the way is what keeps me going in this field and drives me to do what I do. Small changes include: seeing parents be more caring and calm with their children during a tantrum when normally they would have gotten frustrated, having parents follow through with resources we provide, and parents sharing how they are putting into practice their new parenting skills and how they are seeing changes in their family. Helping clients get out of a jam and getting them back on track, while guiding them to use new problem solving skills and having them actually put them to use, inspires me. I am driven by seeing results and having our clients feel there are people out there who truly care and want to help. When they are ready, they’ll have the resources to make the call.
What does your typical day look like?
A typical day for me usually begins in the office, planning for the day and for each of my client visits. I answer calls and emails from social workers and other service providers, get resources and handouts ready, confirm visits and then head out to the field.
We begin each visit by checking in with the parent and getting updates on their family and/or case. The families that we are working with are usually dealing with a variety of issues including domestic violence, homelessness, kids that have been physically abused or severely neglected, substance abuse, extreme poverty, immigration issues including refugees that are new to this country, parental trauma and moms/dads who lack parenting skills to name a few. It is important that we are up to date every week on what our clients’ needs are so we may tailor each visit to provide the appropriate referrals, resources, and information. We then begin discussing the curriculum, which may be SafeCare or Systematic Training for Effective Training (STEP). With SafeCare, we help parents gain knowledge in health issues, home safety, and parent-child or parent-infant interaction skills. With STEP, we cover different topics including parenting styles, reasons for misbehaviors, effective communication, discipline, and teaching cooperation. We cover domestic violence psychoeducation and safety planning, nutrition and preventing childhood obesity with healthy recipes and resources. We assess clients for CalFresh eligibility, discuss minor budgeting issues, and purchase safety items including beds, baby gates, and cleaning supplies. After covering and practicing the material, we review with the parents, assign homework to practice and schedule a visit for the following week.
Tell us about a memorable experience you had with a client?
I began working with a father and mother that had been referred to our services after allegations were made towards the father of physical and emotional abuse. The couple had three teenagers and initially were very skeptical that services would help them. They had very different parenting styles; mother was very passive and father was very authoritative. Counseling services had been provided in the past for their oldest and youngest, who both were having a lot of behavioral issues in the home and in school. The parents had not seen any improvements so far, and they were at the end of their rope. We began discussing the Systematic Training for Effective Parenting (STEP) curriculum. Mom and dad would enthusiastically read each chapter before the visit and we would be able to have discussions about the different parenting topics. We touched on the reasons for misbehaviors, the importance of being on the same page, how to communicate and listen effectively, encouraging their teens, and how to begin family meetings to foster cooperation. Every week mom and dad would tell me how things were improving in the home and how they were actually putting their new skills into practice. By the end of services, the parents were so grateful and excited to share how things were improving in the home. It was great to see the positive shift in the family.
What is your favorite parenting tip or advice?
My favorite piece of advice to tell parents is to talk about the importance of emotional intelligence and teaching their children how to communicate their feelings in a healthy way from a young age. We want to teach children to tell us with their words how they feel instead of showing us by breaking things or throwing tantrums. Children need to learn that their feelings matter and that it’s ok to feel whatever emotion it is that they’re feeling. Parents have to teach children how to appropriately cope with big emotions like sadness and anger by recognizing the emotion and naming the feeling. The goal is to build a strong relationship with children formed on a foundation of trust, respect, and healthy communication.
You can help more families and children by making a gift today. Together we will continue to work towards our vision for every child in San Diego to grow up in a safe, nurturing home.