My take on parenting

I’m not even certain where to begin my column this week. Current events have provided enough fodder for me to write one column per day and still not cover all the thoughts that I’ve been mulling around in my mind since last I wrote, but I suppose like diving into a freezing cold pool, this is one of those times when I simply jump in feet first.

8-20 Page 4A.inddDuring my day job, I work for a program through Behavioral Health Services called Empowering Families. Tied closely to the Department of Social Services, I do home visitation with families who have been reported to DSS for alleged abuse or neglect of their child or children. I go to the homes of my families and assess for safety and risk factors that might lead to abuse or neglect. My goal is to look at the strengths the family has and build upon those, connecting them with the resources and support they need so that they can be completely independent and self-sustaining.

Above all this, my job is to ensure that the children in these families are cared for in the ways children should be — that their basic needs are met and that they are loved and treated with kindness and compassion. Many of us who are parents might think that being a parent is a no-brainer. No one has had to coach us on how to demonstrate love to our children or explain why it is important that our kids attend school and have an adult who makes sure their homework gets done.

For those of us who are fortunate to have educations that have offered us the opportunity to secure employment and the financial resources we need to provide for our children’s basic needs, there are other parents who don’t have the luxury of earning a paycheck above minimum wage and are often forced to make decisions like “Do I put gas in my car so I can work?” or “Do I buy groceries?”

I offer these examples only to illustrate that there are a lot of families right here in Pickens County who struggle for one reason or another. Poverty. Domestic violence. Substance abuse. Childhood histories of abuse. Lack of education. All of these (and more) factor into how a person parents his or her child or children, and this is why some parents struggle more than others.

Understand that I am not making excuses. When one makes the choice to become a parent, one must accept the inherent responsibilities that come with having someone completely dependent on said parent for everything that child needs. There are some folks, however, who try as they might, simply can’t seem to catch a break, and this is where people like me and programs like ours are highly beneficial.

What directed me to the topic of parenting this week was hearing about the South Carolina father who police say killed all five of his children and drove around disposing of their bodies. In this case, there are some people who simply cannot and should not be parents. And those who suffer most are innocent children.

This news was simply heartbreaking for me to hear, and it is even more frustrating to not have answers. I won’t even pretend that I do. What I believe is this — each of us has to have the courage to speak out when we notice something is not quite right. There had to be signs. Maybe some intervention might have helped prevent the loss of so much potential.

Cliché as it sounds, I firmly believe that it takes a village. Are you willing to be part of the community effort?