Stopping child abuse before it starts is the goal of the Wise Coalition for Healthy Children.
And prevention begins with education.
With that in mind, the coalition is inviting local moms, dads and caregivers to the first Wise Parent Cafe.
The cafes are designed to nurture parents, not lecture them on what they are doing wrong, said Dena Silvers, coalition chair.
“We want it to be very parent-friendly,” she said. “It’s not an accusatory thing. It’s not just for parents who feel like they need help. It’s for any parent who feels like they need some camaraderie, or they need to vent or bring up issues of any kind.”
A dozen volunteers have been trained by licensed counselors to lead the cafes, which will operate in a group-discussion format. The first session is 4 to 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 29, at the Wesley Center of the First United Methodist Church in Decatur.
It will focus on the basic philosophies and practices of nurturing parenting. A second Parent Cafe is planned for Oct. 13 at the same time and location. That meeting will be on choosing the most effective ways to discipline your child based on the situation. The volunteer facilitators will be trained to present 10 lessons total, although future sessions have not yet been scheduled.
Since this will be the first Parent Cafe the coalition has put on, Silvers said she doesn’t know if two or 22 people will attend, but the lessons are flexible enough to accommodate small or large groups and parents of children of varying ages, from infants to teenagers.
And since it is a “cafe,” snacks will be served. Childcare is also available if you call ahead to 940-627-5080 to RSVP.
All sessions are free.
No matter how many people show up, the coalition hopes to raise community awareness about child abuse.
“We’re kind of adopting the approach that if we help one parent, then it was worth it,” Silvers said.
The coalition is hoping to put on more Parent Cafes around the county – at schools, churches and even businesses.
“We would love to have a large employer call and say, ‘Do a parent cafe on this and this,’ so we do kind of saturate the county. That’s the ultimate goal,” Silvers said.
She added that the program would fit well with school districts, since they are already required to provide a certain amount of training on issues like child abuse.
When the coalition formed two years ago following Cook Children’s Communitywide Children’s Health Assessment and Planning Survey (CCHAPS), it decided to focus on the issue of child abuse.
Resources were already in place to deal with child abuse after it occurs, but there were fewer programs to address prevention.
The coalition’s first initiative was to work with the Wise Regional Health Foundation to secure two years of funding for the educational program called “Period of PURPLE Crying.” Each mother who gives birth at Wise Regional is given a short video helping parents deal with a child who won’t stop crying – the type of situation that can sometimes lead to shaken baby syndrome if the parent does not know that non-stop crying is often normal for newborns.
The coalition has also worked with local service agencies to make sure the 2-1-1 Texas database has updated resources for Wise County. Information on child abuse and neglect has also been distributed at various health fairs and festivals around the county.
For more information, visit www.centerforchildrenshealth.org.