STAMFORD, Connecticut – The St. Joseph Parenting Center in Stamford offers free parenting classes in Spanish and English to families at risk of neglect and child abuse.
Its motto, “Educate the parent, protect the child” describes exactly what this center does for families in the region who need help.
“SJPC is a great resource available to anyone with a child up to the age of 12 and it would be great to let people in our community know that this resource exists. “said Jeanette Christian, a volunteer with SJPC, which is located on the second floor at 566 Elm Street.
Measi O’Rourke, the centre’s executive director, was born in Ireland and raised in White Plains. She is married and resides in Ridgefield. As a registered nurse, she worked for several years in mother and child care, then took 10 years off to raise her five children. The combination of his upbringing and parenting, as well as his volunteer work with children in his church, is what drew O’Rourke to SJPC.
“I am passionate about how children are treated properly,” O’Rouke said. “The goal is to be really there in a long term relationship with these parents so that they have the support they need to overcome them and hope that they don’t abuse and neglect their children.”
SJPC opened in 2010 with the help of individual donors. Since then, they are now dependent on fundraising, grant writing, family foundations, individual donors, and government funding to run the center. SJPC is staffed but they also have over 200 volunteers, many of whom are educators with teaching credentials.
Some of these teachers are trained using parenting education programs purchased by SJPC. Others are already specialized volunteers, such as therapists and social workers. The center also subcontracts all community resources in Stamford and surrounding areas such as the DVCC (Domestic Violence Crisis Center), police and firefighters depending on the subject.
“It’s a very small commitment from these teachers, but they have such value,” said O’Rourke. There are also volunteers who do not need diplomas. “They just need to be willing to provide a meal, run a kitchen, or do administrative work.” O’Rourke said. “They are just as important. “
Engagement and interaction with parents is the favorite part of O’Rourke’s job. Because this is an education and resource center and not a clinic or part of the state, they found they were a “safe haven” for these parents.
“We’re here to empower them to be the best moms and dads,” O’Rourke said. “In a very neutral way, get the message across that we believe in you, we know you can do it. It is very gratifying to see these parents, that very often no one has told them that they believe in them so that we can say you can do it, we encourage you.
O’Rourke says most parents want to be good mothers and fathers, and thanks to the SJPC, they can learn to be just that.
For more information or to volunteer, contact O’Rourke at 203-588-1934 or email [email protected] Further information is also available on the SJPC website.
Robyn Blosio Bova is from Stamford and a real estate agent for Higgins Group.
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