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The Parenting Place: Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect in Upstate South Carolina
By Karen Brewer


Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

The staff of The Parenting Place (Prevent Child Abuse Pickens County).
           


            Greta Young said she loves helping others, especially children, and loves working as Executive Director of The Parenting Place.  "My first day here was special," she told The Christian View. I didn’t know anybody. The past Director had already gone. The staff welcomed me with open arms, and they’ve been doing that since I’ve been here. The staff is really, really special. They make the place run. I know they’re doing it for the agency and for the families that they really love. I feel that it is a pleasure for me to even get to work with the people who work here. They all do a great job. They believe in what we do, and they believe in helping their clients. I love that about them.”

            Young said that The Parenting Place, which serves not only Pickens County, where it is based, but also Anderson, Oconee, and Greenville Counties, has four home visitors:  “Deanna Altman is our Spanish-speaking home visitor and works in the Oconee area, Nicole Daughhetee works in the Pickens area, Sanquinita Martin works in the Anderson area, and Livell Paul works in the Greenville area. Each one of the home visitors has a client or two in Pickens, so they can stay close to where we are, as well -- so they can serve the community that we work in and also serve the communities that they live in.

            “Misty Brian is over our Family Check-Up program. Pamela Farmer is our counseling director. Deanna Luvene is also a counselor. They’re both licensed counselors we have on staff. We have an accountant, Mary Gibson. Sara Trinkl (Community Engagement Director) is doing the Ride for the Child for us, and she also goes out and tries to bring in donations to the agency and speaks to different agencies about our services here.”

            Allie Korzekwa is the Volunteer Coordinator for The Parenting Place. “My job is to get volunteers in here,” she said. “I handle recruitment, retention, projects. I also handle large service projects for volunteers who are coming in from schools or groups or churches. That’s the main part. I also work with Family Check-Up, sometimes, and help facilitate Misty’s home visits. I also help with the Parents Anonymous program in the evenings.”

Misty Brian, who oversees the Family Check-Up program, which is available to parents and other caregivers of children ages two to five with behavioral issues, has worked at The Parenting Place for three years.  “I do home visitation,” she said. “I work with the parents who have kids with major challenges, and they don’t know what to do. We work on positive parenting skills that specifically address behavior. I really work more with the parents than the kids, but it’s to help the parents deal with the kids’ behavior. I do an assessment, because we look at environmental factors, substance abuse, mental health issues, all of that. We screen for developmental delays in the kids, just to make sure none of those are affecting their behaviors. If they’re struggling with school, then, with the parents’ written permission, of course, we get involved with the teachers and try to come up with a plan to help them in the school situation. Some of our kids are not in school yet, and we’re trying to get them ready, to get these behaviors under control before they get into school, because we know that, if they get in school and are having behavior problems, it can be very hard to learn. And we provide support if parents want to get their GED. If they’re having any other issues, we make referrals to other resources, as needed. So we do a lot of that too, helping them set their own goals, as well.”

Deanna Luvene, a counselor for The Parenting Place, said, “We go into the home and do therapy with the clients. We take a very holistic approach. We help them with whatever they need help with, victims who have suffered some type of trauma.” Counseling services are designed for those who have suffered through physical, emotional, mental, or sexual abuse.

            Summer Mast is the Family Assessment and Data Coordinator for The Parenting Place. “I handle all of the intakes in the office,” she said. “Anytime we get a new referral, the referrals come through me, and I contact the family. I handle the fund data for the agency, as well.”

            She explained how she came to The Parenting Place three years ago. “I had been looking for something a little bit different than what I was doing. I love kids, and I was looking to volunteer at maybe some group homes. Somebody told me about a job opportunity here. I had no idea what The Parenting Place was or what they did, but I decided to find out, and I absolutely love it. I love that I get the chance to go out to work with families one on one. We’re in the home on a regular basis. Going to the home, I see a lot of stuff that is hard to see at times, but I love knowing that we’re going to be sending somebody in there on a weekly basis for the first little while and that we’re going to be able to teach that parent. A lot of our parents grew up in foster homes, or their parents were not present in their lives, so they don’t know how to be a parent. It was never modeled to them. I love knowing that we are able to go in and be able to teach them how to be a parent, so they can provide for their child in a better way, a more stable way. Hopefully, we’re able to break that cycle for that child, so that, when that child marries and has kids, the cycle has been broken, because it has been modeled to them how to be a parent. That’s kind of where my passion is.

“We have two counselors on staff now, which we absolutely love. We were finding that so many of our families have a lot of mental stuff that they’re working through, depression or anxiety, and so, when we were going out into the home, we were spending so much time discussing the breakdown that they were having, the stresses that they were in, we weren’t able to deliver the curriculum. We have two counselors on staff so that we’re able to say, ‘Let’s refer you to one of our counselors, and they can help you work through all of this other stuff, so that we can work with you on what the program is actually intended to work with you on. And they can receive outside referrals, too, so they work with other people besides our families that we take in here.”

Healthy Families America is a program The Parenting Place offers for parents who are expecting or who have a newborn child. A curriculum entitled ‘Growing Great Kids’ is used to provide education for the new parents and positive parenting techniques.

The Parenting Place offers Parenting Education Classes for 1 ½ to two hours a week. “All of our services are offered in the home,” said Mast, “but, sometimes, the parent does choose to come up here, and so, when they do, we’ll do the curriculum or the visit with them in a multi-purpose room. We have a café which doubles as a classroom, as well. We offer anger management classes on Thursdays.

“Our big classroom gets utilized on several different occasions. We offer Parents Anonymous groups on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It’s kind of like a support group. There is an instructor, but the parents work together to discuss what’s going on and help solve problems together as a group. And Upstate Fatherhood Coalition comes in two mornings a week in home parenting classes. This room gets used a lot for different types of parenting classes.”

The Parenting Place has two major fundraisers each year, Ride for the Child and Cheer for the Children, and donations are accepted year round. “We offer three main specific programs,” said Mast, “but, to able to do that, we definitely need the donations and the fundraisers throughout the year, because all of our services are completely free. The only thing that we charge for is the anger management. The community classes and all of the programs we offer are free. When I first came in, this was my first time working in the non-profit industry, and to be able to go into a home and say, ‘We’re going to be able to help you with this,’ and ‘We’re going to be able to provide you with this, completely free of charge, and you don’t even have to find transportation to come into our office because we’re going to come out to you’ -- that’s huge, especially in this area, because transportation is a major barrier, and so to be able to offer all of these services, including the counseling, in the home is absolutely huge."

In addition to monetary donations, The Parenting Place also accepts donations of certain items. “Pampers and Wet Ones are huge, and baby products like lotion, pacifiers, and clothes,” said Mast.  “We even sometimes will give baby food and formula.  We go through a lot of that too.

“We have a clothes closet where people will donate gently used baby clothes, and then anyone enrolled in our program can come and shop in the closet once a month for their children. We have a sweet volunteer that comes in and volunteers with us several days a week and keeps the closet for us. She organizes everything by size. If it doesn’t look like it was washed before it was given to us, she’ll take it home and wash it and bring it back for us. She keeps everything organized.  It’s always fun to see parents come in here and get a bag and go shopping.  

“We give out a lot of books, so donations of books we appreciate. We have some book shelves in the hallway, and they’re getting pretty empty, because our home visitors take books out, and then the parenting classes will ask, ‘Can we take some books to our kids?’ and we’re not going to tell them no. So we give out a lot of books.

“We also offer to our families a lot of hygiene products like shampoo and conditioner, soap, toilet paper and paper towels and cleaning products. It’s not something that we freely give out, but when there is truly a need.

“Sometimes, our storage area gets really slim, and we can only give out what we have. We let the parents know that we run off of donations and we can only give out what’s been given to us. So we’re constantly looking for donations in that way, as well.

“We are also funded through some grants, but we’re always on a tight budget, and we’re always looking to expand. Misty’s program keeps a waiting list. She has a rather large waiting list right now. We would love to be able to hire somebody else to offer her program, because there isn’t anything else like it around, so it’s a very high-needed program in this area. We’re looking to hire people in that area and possibly some more counselors. So we definitely need all of the funding and donations and fundraisers that we can get.”

            For more information, contact The Parenting Place at 864-898-5583. The organization is located at 1899 Gentry Memorial Highway, Easley, SC 29640. Visit their website at tppupstate.org.


            Click here for a separate article on Ride for the Child and Click here for a separate article on Child Abuse Prevention Month.