Learning to cope at Stamford Parenting Center


“I was brought up to be very strict with children,” she said.

But a city nonprofit that had helped Becerra – and dozens of other parents – out of a small space in St. Mary’s Parish since its inception in 2010 grew so much that it had to find a bigger site.

The St. Joseph Parenting Center, which recently moved to the city-owned Yerwood Center on Fairfield Avenue, now serves nearly 300 parents a year with classes aimed at providing tools to deal with the stress of raising. a family when financial resources are so limited. .

“Because of those classes, I figured I had to talk to them, even though they’re young, Becerra said Wednesday during a break from an anger management class. “I have to make them believe that they have power but also know the consequences of their behavior.”

The program – a rotating schedule of 28 courses in English and Spanish – covers topics such as nutrition, first aid, anger management, children’s mental health, behavior and discipline, budget management and time, home safety, legal issues, effective communication, bonding and child development, reading and literacy, and creative play.

Executive Director Measi O’Rourke said participants, most of whom are from low-income households, come to the center with a variety of needs.

“They want to advance their education, she said. “They just lost their jobs. They need housing; they need clothes.

The incentives to enroll in the center are important: parents receive a hot meal and a free bag of groceries at each class.

The ultimate goal, however, is to prevent child neglect – about half of participants are referred by the state Department of Children and Family or through a court-ordered disciplinary program. .

In 2015, more than 6,000 children across the state were abused, neglected or left untreated, according to the DCF. About 120 of these children came from Stamford.

Most parents participating in the programs are on average 25 to 34 years old. But O’Rourke said services are open to parents in all situations.

“Parenting doesn’t come with a textbook,” said O’Rourke, a mother of five. “And as you add children, your stress increases, the financial burdens increase.”

Single parents

Stamford resident Yuliya Dorokhova, 28, who has a 5-year-old son, enrolled in the program to expand her childcare skills. She said her son has since become more conscientious and a better listener.

“We have even become closer,” she said.

Like Dorokhova, around 60 to 70 percent of St. Joseph’s clients are single parents.

Men make up about 40 percent of the clients the center serves.

“We are very friendly with fathers,” said O’Rourke, noting that the organization offers a course only for fathers – DAD, or Dads Are the Difference.

The non-profit organization has also become a place of socialization, networking and participation in the community. Some clients return to volunteer as facilitators.

“You bring them community,” said O’Rourke. “Their confidence and knowledge of the resources available at Stamford is limited. “

Facilitators include internal volunteers and community experts, such as family therapists, psychologists, pediatricians, lawyers, firefighters, and police.

The center has also partnered with Inspirica homeless shelters, where a shorter version of the 28-class parenting program takes place.

O’Rourke said the centre’s new location in Yerwood is working well as it brings parents and children together at the same site. The city-owned building is also home to the Boys & Girls Club.

“They take care of the children and we have that for the parents,” she said. “Now we take care of the whole family. “

[email protected], 203-964-2265, @olivnelson

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