SCAN’s Families Are Magic Prevention Program Coordinator Lucy Block has stepped into new territory on behalf of SCAN’s prevention efforts.

 

Lucy began leading a Circle of Parents group for women at the Henrico County Jail West in July. In October, Lucy began a men’s group at the jail and also began a Circle of Parents group at the Whitcomb Court Community Center.

 

The groups are offered on a weekly basis. The Circle of Parents program is based on a national model (http://circleofparents.org/) and is a mutual self-help group for parents.

 

“We wanted to reach parents in their communities in a format that felt warm, welcoming and comfortable,” Lucy said. “The groups are meant to be a natural community and social support system where caregivers can access parenting knowledge easily and naturally, instead of through hotlines, crisis centers, etc.”

 

Lucy said that all three of the groups have been full each week.

 

In the jail groups, parents are excited to have the opportunity to discuss their children and resolve some of the barriers to effective parenting, including making a plan for the future when they leave jail.

 

“The most positive thing that I’ve heard is ‘Can I call you when I get out?’” Lucy said. “That’s a huge step for many of the parents—to feel comfortable asking for help. Having a one-hour respite from the stressful and toxic jail environment allows them to exhale, feel vulnerable, and really think about what they want to get out of being a parent.”

 

The Whitcomb Court group has also been successful. Here, the need is very high, Lucy said. Many of the parents in the group have a high level of trauma in their own lives including histories of their own physical and sexual abuse. Meanwhile, caregivers are worried every day for their children’s safety in what is often a violent environment.

 

“There is a lot of high energy and toxic stress,” Lucy said. “They are living in an environment that feels like a war zone and are also trying to figure out how to focus on creating a safe environment within their own homes.”

 

Lucy says the parents are already getting benefits from the group. Parents often say: “It’s just really nice to talk about these things. I feel like I’m connecting with other people and we can help each other.”

 

The Circle of Parents model has been well researched and is backed by evidence that demonstrates that the model reduces child maltreatment. Parents not only learn to connect with each other, but they learn important parenting skills including protective factors such as parental resilience, nurturing and attachment.

 

Learn more about the Circle of Parents model here.

 

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