“Being a parent is a lot of work. At least there’s something out there for people,” said one parent at last week’s educational event for legislators about Parent Child Centers and the work that they do in the community. Parents and staff members from each of Chittenden County’s three parent child centers gathered together at the VNA Family Room in downtown Burlington where legislators from Chittenden County were invited to join them and hear first hand the importance of these essential community resources.
Parent Child Centers are a network of non-profit organizations serving all of Vermont. There are 15 in total and the focus of each is to provide support and education to families with young children. The goal is to help all Vermont families get off to a healthy start, promote well being and build on family strengths. This support and education helps to prevent problems such as school failure, poor health, welfare dependency, family violence and abuse. A reduction in these problems helps to strengthen every community and to ultimately save the state money further on in the life of the child. Families who are at risk for substance abuse, mental health conditions, trauma, domestic violence and poverty face significant barriers to accessing the help that they need. Parent Child Centers offer help in ways that take these barriers into account and form trusting relationships with vulnerable families while engaging them in services.
The need for Parent Child Centers grows every year as the problems of opiate abuse, multi generational poverty and concerns for child welfare further permeate the community. Yet state funding has remained level since 1995. The goal of this meeting was to help legislators to understand the work of the Parent Child Centers to gain their support for the Parent Child Center Network’s legislative platform for the upcoming session which is to request additional funding – $135,000 for each center in Vermont for a total appropriation amount of $2,025,000.
Imagine that in one year that each Parent Child Center prevents one birth to a teenage mom, one woman entering the Correctional Facility, one child being placed in foster care, and one single mother receiving public assistance. This would save the state $2,131,041 over that year which is less than the funds being asked for in the legislative session. Of course each Parent Child Center does this critical prevention work with multiple families each year.
“I am so thankful we found Milton Community Center,” said one Mom at the meeting while her son played in the room nearby. “My son was born prematurely and has developmental delays. I have learning difficulties too. Without MCC he would never have come as far as he has. Our children are the future of our world, how we raise them and the support team that we have is so important. Milton Community Center is my second home. I will never forget what they have done.”
Parent Child Centers are key in breaking multi-generational cycles of poverty, addiction and abuse because they work with the children and their caregivers at the same time. “I know I’m going to be the total opposite of what I knew growing up,” said another Mom who had used multiple treatment and family support services here at Lund. “It’s hard to trust people if you grow up a certain way but Lund is like my second family and they are there for me when I need help.” The most important investment in the community needs to happen early and in a way that best supports the safe and healthy development of children. As Vermont moves forward in developing innovative health care delivery systems, the Parent Child Centers must remain an integral home base for families.
One mom who came to participate in the meeting shared her struggles with post natal depression after the birth of her daughter and how she searched and searched to find something or someone who could help her in the way that she needed and in so doing asked the question that was at the forefront of everyone’s mind. “I needed someone to tell me that I was doing a good job. I needed someone to watch and learn from. I found that here at the Parent Child Center. But how are they going to keep doing this without the money?”