Shortly after my dad passed away, I found myself still reaching to dial his phone number on my evening drive, just to be devastated knowing I can no longer have those great talks anymore. The ability to run ideas, share my day’s ups and down, the comfort of my parents being my greatest audience. They were my audience for successes, celebrations, and tough challenges. They were my sounding board and my foundation. Without that, I was lost.
I was fortunate to have this built-in support system well into my adulthood, but their absence made me wonder: What about kids who don’t have that audience? Who advocates for them? Who cheers them, encourages them or guides them?
So the next time I picked up the phone, I found myself dialing Children’s Home Society of Florida.
This organization is best known for helping children in the foster care system, so I thought I would be volunteering with kids whose parents were absent in their lives. To my surprise, that was only a tiny part of what was happening in my community. The bigger picture was the work CHS does to keep families together.
The idea of “prevention” was entirely new to me. CHS was developing a parent’s skills so they were better equipped to parent. It made all the sense in the world: Any time you’re dealt a hand where you’re not capable to achieve what you want, you need a resource that can help.
My idea of the audience shifted again: What about the parents who are too overwhelmed to listen?
Parenting is overwhelming, and in a lot of ways it’s like on-the-job training. When my daughters were born, I did not leave that hospital with a manual on how to parent. But I had a strong support system in my parents and siblings — they were my role models. For parents who do not have that support, how do they know what to do?
At CHS, skilled guides and coaches work with parents through therapy, parent education and training to become stronger parents — CHS is the manual, resource and support system all rolled into one big stepping stone on which parents can launch themselves.
Most people know CHS for their work in foster care and adoption, but the organization’s value is so much greater to Florida’s kids. The need is not always about finding new parents for a child.
Many times, it’s about giving birth parents the best chance to thrive.
And sometimes, it’s about the parents who step up to help along the way — the foster parents.
Recently, I had the chance to go to Tallahassee and advocate with CHS for more of these family solutions. I saw the way our child advocates have to fight to give our community better resources — they bring passion and heart to a world of lobbying and strategy with all of the hope that passion will outweigh procedure.
On May 14, our state celebrated Child Welfare Professional Recognition Day, a little-known holiday for our many everyday heroes right here in Volusia County. I encourage our community to get behind these heroes in their efforts to keep families together. Contact CHS and see how they can open your eyes to a world where more children realize their full potential — be their audience.
— Doucette, of Daytona Beach, is a member of the board of directors of the Children’s Home Society of Florida and president of Smart Technologies/CopyFax Of Mid Florida.
Originally posted by: The Daytona Beach News Journal