Part 2 in a new series of interviews with Community Action Partnership Staff
Cal Poly Social Science Student and Community Action Partnership Volunteer Intern Kaitlyn Oelsner interviews Tammee Green, Parent Educator/Advocate III, about her role at the agency.
Kaitlyn: What are some of your responsibilities as a Parent Educator/Advocate III?
Tammee: I work countywide and at any given time I will have anywhere from 18-20 clients. I spend a significant portion of my time providing in home parenting education. However, I am available as needed to provide an array of other services to these families. I help families connect to available community resources such as, Counseling, food, medical services, legal assistance, housing, job seeking, budgeting and many CAPSLO programs. I help those who may be struggling to meet their family’s basic needs maintain a stable, safe and healthy environment for their children. I can also provide assistance with basic household safety items, like cabinet/drawer locks, cribs, bedding, clothing and cleaning products. All children ages 0-5 are given an Ages and Stages Questionnaire and screened for developmental, physical or emotional delays. I even go to meetings with teachers if a child is having problems at school. The goal is to give parents the tools they need to provide safe and healthy homes for their children. On average, I see about three families in their homes a day, but it is not uncommon to see up to five.
K: How can a family be referred to Family Support Services?
T: This is a countywide child abuse prevention program. Referrals come from the Department of Social Services in three different ways. Path one is the result of a SCAR (Suspected Child Abuse Report). This is an anonymous report made by a mandated reporter or concerned citizen. CWS “screens” these referrals and if it is determined that child safety and risk levels do not warrant a Child Welfare Services response, then they are referred to our program. Path two is a direct referral from CWS (Child Welfare Services) to provide intensive in home parenting classes and/or services to keep the children safe (i.e. safety gates, outlet covers, cabinet drawer locks, etc.). Path three is for CalWORKS participants who complete a Confidential Self-Assessment for Services Referral Form and indicate that they would like assistance in parenting. This referral is made by an Employment Resource Specialist (ERS) worker.
K: What happens once a family is referred to Family Support Services?
T: I will conduct an intake interview with the family and the Social Worker, if the family has one. Our initial meeting is a discussion to evaluate the overall needs of the household and the child specifically. We begin to build a case plan with the family while focusing on their current strengths/resources and prioritizing their concerns/ needs. For the clients receiving parent education; the family and I discuss the different types of discipline that is used in their home as well as specific behavioral issues they may be having with their children. This first meeting will usually be about two hours long. Resource information is provided at this time and throughout the period we are working with the family. We determine the case plan, the best time to meet, and the best location to meet. One of the benefits of our program is the ability to meet the client where they are most comfortable and at a time when they can fully participate.
K: What are some of the things that you teach at the in-home parenting sessions?
T: I am certified to teach five various curriculums from Active Parenting Publishers, Positive Discipline and The Nurturing Parents Program. We assign a curriculum according to the ages of the children; (infant, ages 5-12, or Teens) and based on behavioral indicators. I watch parent education videos with the parents and then we discuss different elements of the video and how they may apply to their families. The program includes parent guide workbooks, and “homework” assignments. One of the assignments is to write a letter of encouragement to their children. This is one of my favorite assignments because the children really appreciate those letters. I once worked with a single father who presented himself to be tough and not very invested in taking parenting classes. When it came time for him to write the letters to his children, he surprised me by taking the time to cut out family photographs of his sons and pictures from one of their discarded magazines. He glued these on the cards that he had written and talked about how much he loved them.
I prefer to have children present during our parenting sessions. Usually, a conflict will occur between the parent and child while I am there and I can support and guide that parent through the conflict. It is a very effective learning experience for both the parent and child. Often, the families referred to our program have a history of domestic violence. I those cases, I show a video that illustrates the effects that exposure to violence can have on a child’s brain development. Unfortunately, 45% of our Path 1 cases are domestic violence related.
K: How do you think your job is helping people; changing lives?
T: I work in the homes of struggling families on a daily basis. This gives me the unique opportunity to see how Family Support Services can transform the way that family members interact with one another and the way that parents view their children. Through the promotion of appropriate and loving discipline, I help families break cycles of violence that have been passed from parents to children for generations. Also, I can ensure they make the connection to much needed resources from other service providers. We served 381 families this year. Of those cases, 64% reported improved family functioning, and I would like to think that the lives of those families are absolutely changed for the better.
Tammee Green is a Parent Educator/Advocate III in the Family Support Services Division. She has worked at CAPSLO for over nine years.