On Saturday, April 30, the Child Abuse Prevention Association, more commonly known in Beaufort as CAPA, invites walkers and runners to participate in the 3rd Annual Angel Walk at the Waterfront Park in Downtown Beaufort. The goal of the Angel Walk is to raise funds necessary to ensure that services are available to prevent child abuse and neglect in Beaufort County. Since April is child abuse prevention month, CAPA would like the community to walk together, to improve the lives of all of our children.
Recently, I sat with Susan Cato, Executive Director of CAPA and Gloria Duryea, Community Relations Coordinator, and listened as they emotionally described the destructive cycle of abuse. They also presented the content of CAPA’s effective Parenting Classes, which provide the knowledge, encouragement and network a mother or father needs to be the best parent they can be. The class is based on the Positive Parenting Program, Triple P, a science-based, proven program that has been helping parents for over 20 years.
The following is a testimonial of a woman who recently completed the class. He name has been changed to protect her identity.
Tamara, a 25-year-old mom, explained that she had made a very bad decision to leave her children with her boyfriend while she worked. Her boyfriend beat their two-year-old, breaking several ribs and leaving him with internal bleeding and swelling in his groin.
Tamara was charged with child neglect, and her other children, ages 9 months and four years, were placed with relatives. The two-year-old was placed in foster care. The boyfriend was arrested and charged with criminal child abuse. She knew that he beat her, but she never thought he would beat his son. She received counseling from Citizens Opposed to Domestic Abuse (CODA) and began to understand domestic violence and that her situation was typical. She also learned that she believed that somehow she deserved what she got. She had to change. She had failed her children and was at rock bottom.
She came to CAPA’s parenting classes, where she was welcomed. She said the facilitator encouraged her to talk, gave her suggestions and coached her. “She started with me where I was,” she said. She also said she felt secure in knowing that what was discussed there was confidential; and, as she developed trust with the group, she began to open up. She felt that someone cared about her situation.
“Don’t get me wrong,” she said, “there was accountability – be honest, be on time, take ownership of your problems and be willing to work to change. If you are late, you can stay but get no credit for the class.”
Tamara said the Monday night class gave her a “fix” for the week – the counseling, the friendships and learning better ways to parent and how to manage relationships and anger. She stated that the classes “changed my life.”
She learned, “No yelling, no hitting, helpful ways to parent and deal with children in a way that was not something I had ever experienced.” She applied what she learned to all her relationships. Being there was a priority for Tamara, not only because she wanted to get her children back but because she was learning so much and she wanted to be there. She encouraged friends to come along with her.
She explained how the facilitator “brought it down to our level, called her during the week, giving her feedback and making important points understandable and useable.” She said the facilitator was an incredible teacher who made it clear that she also continues to learn. She felt that, more than parenting classes, what she really gained was “life coaching.” She continues to be active in the classes, beyond her eight week commitment. She also plans to join the PS We Love You Support Group where she will have an on-going relationship with CAPA and women that will help her become the parent she wants to be.
Tamara explained that her own mother had left her and her siblings when they were younger. The nine children were split up and raised by different people all over the country. Tamara said she was anxious to go back to her siblings and help them understand that it wasn’t their fault that their mother didn’t want to be responsible for them. I want to help them break the abuse cycle too.
She noted, “Children are like sponges, they absorb everything – good and bad. Sometimes, they blame themselves for not receiving the love they deserve and see themselves as unlovable,” she explained.
Tamara said that participating in CAPA’s classes affirmed that, for the first time in her life, she had a voice, a home, a sanctuary and a firm ground beneath her. She explained that she wished she could go back and change things – for her siblings and for her children. That not being possible, she wants to help others know that family violence escalates. While she feels betrayed by her former boyfriend, she knows that she failed to protect her children when she failed to protect herself. “You cannot protect your children unless you leave,” she said.
For the first time, she has found what was missing in her life – her ability to understand that she and her children deserve love. “I have experienced family violence and will not have my children experience the same,” she said. “My children deserve better,” she concluded.
Tamara has arranged for her children to have safe childcare while she works. She wants to be a co-leader in the Triple P classes. Most of all, she wants to be the best mother that she can be.
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