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Strengthening family ties is program goal

caines | 9/27/2012, 5:30 a.m.

Commitment to change is key

Everything that Marie-Yolaine Jean-Baptiste knows about parenting including how to communicate, discipline, encourage and to guide her daughter she learned in her native Haiti. Until now. Jean-Baptiste lives in NE Miami with her parents and daughter Marie-Yelene, a fourth grader at Edison Park Elementary. Marie-Yelene's father remains in Haiti. Though she arrived here 11 years ago, many aspects of this culture remain foreign to Jean-Baptiste, including the language. The culture gap seems widest when it comes to parenting. Like many parents who find themselves raising children in a culture thats largely unknown to them, Jean-Baptiste decided to get some help was directed to the Strengthening Families Program. The program is operated by Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Miami and funded by The Childrens Trust and is for children 3-16 and their parents. Whats the one thing that Jean-Baptiste hopes to learn? I want to learn so I dont tell her any bad things and that we, together with the grandparents, can build good communication skills within the family, she said. Good education, good information, here or in Haiti or anywhere its the same.

Change requires commitment

For these parents and families its all about commitment, a commitment to attend class once a week for 14 weeks, a commitment to change and try something new, and its a commitment they make because they know the risk possibly losing their children to a culture that moves at breakneck speed. Trainings are culturally sensitive and offered in English, Spanish and Creole. Every session starts with a meal together. The meal is an essential part of our program, said Sandra Fish, program director. At home, too, to get that sense of family, eating together is important. Our mindset is that we dont condescend, we dont tell them how to parent. Instead I say that Im here to enhance your parenting, to show what worked for me were in it together. Tessa Painson, who has overseen the program since its inception in 2002, says many of the families are struggling just to keep a roof over their heads. Theyre going through so much [in the world that] when they start interacting, start to open up, they get so involved. The children sometimes blame the parents, they think its the parents fault and the parents blame the kids, Fish said. We practice interaction that allows for a little space somewhere in all the chaos where we can all get along. By Michael R. MaloneThe Children's Trust