Catholic Charities’ Parent Education Program Making a Difference

FULTON, NY – For the past 33 years Catholic Charities of Oswego County’s Strong Families, Safe Kids Parent Aide program has been working to promote healthy family units throughout Oswego County.

Recently the program has undergone a name change that better reflects the work that the program does.

Director of Catholic Charities of Oswego County’s Parent Education Program Kevin Slimmer and parent educator Cindy Morabito review the curriculum for an upcoming Parenting Workshop.
Director of Catholic Charities of Oswego County’s Parent Education Program Kevin Slimmer and parent educator Cindy Morabito review the curriculum for an upcoming Parenting Workshop.

With a staff of four full-time parent educators, the program, which is now called the Parent Education Program, is currently serving 52 families by providing in-home supportive outreach.

“We decided to change the name of the program as it really didn’t encapsulate the entire scope of the work that our parent educators do,” explained program director Kevin Slimmer. “Our parent educators do much more than just assist parents and advocate for them.  They work one on one with the parents and their families, teaching them valuable parenting skills that help families develop stronger, healthier relationships.”

Slimmer explained that the parent educators provide much needed help to families.

All families are referred to the program by the Oswego County Department of Social Services.

Once referred the family meets with their assigned case worker and a parent educator from the Parent Education Program.

“The case worker determines what the issues and concerns of the family are. The family and parent educator establish what goals should be accomplished to satisfy these concerns. These goals include, but are not limited to, working on a variety of issues, such as teaching parents appropriate disciplinary actions, housekeeping skills, basic infant and child care, proper nutrition and meal preparation, and effective budgeting techniques,” said Slimmer.

Once the goals have been established, and the solutions to meet goals outlined, the families agree to work with the parent educator and do what is necessary to achieve these goals.

Each parent educator typically is assigned to 13 families at a time, which they have face-to-face contact with for at least one hour per week.

Contact hours can be scheduled to meet the unique needs of the families.

Parent educators have the ability to work after hours with employed families to accommodate their work schedules.

The objective is to educate parents in order to decrease episodes of abuse and neglect so that the family unit can remain intact.

In cases where children are already in foster care or placement the goal is to reunite the children with their family, in their home.

Slimmer said that what makes the program successful is the personal interaction that takes place between the parent educator and the family.

“Having a parent educator come into the home on a weekly basis and helping the family work through real problems in their own environment is essential to the success of the program. The families really get to know the parent educators.  They trust them and are open to learning as much as they can from them,” he said.

In addition to teaching the necessary parenting skills the parent educators also act as advocates as they endeavor to help families identify and reduce issues that may have contributed to their initial need for involvement with services, and support families while they are working with other providers and learning to become self-reliant.

Parent educators regularly chart their progress with the families and every 90 days they, along with the family, meet with the family’s case worker and the parent educator supervisor to access the family’s accomplishments and determine if the family has reached its assigned goals and can now effectively handle the issues that caused their problems.

Slimmer indicated that on average most families achieve their goals after approximately 6 months in the program.  However, some families stay in the program longer if additional circumstances develop.

In addition to working with assigned families, the Parent Education Program also offers a number of Parenting Workshops throughout the year.

These workshops, which focus on a variety of pertinent parenting issues, are offered free of charge and are open to the public.

According to Slimmer, the workshops are an important part of the program and serve as a perfect complement to the work the parent educators are doing with the families.

“The one on one training that the parent educators do in the homes is invaluable as it directly influences positive change in the family relationship by teaching parents the skills they need to provide for their children adequately. The parenting classes that we offer are an extension of that as they allow parents to get together in a group setting where they can share their experiences with others that they can relate to,” explained Slimmer.

The Parent Education Program currently offers approximately 15 parenting workshops throughout the year.

The workshops focus on developing overall parenting skills and effectively dealing with behavioral problems.

The curriculum for the workshops is based on the ages of the children with workshops available for parents of children up to 4 years of age, parents of children ages 5 through 10, and parents of children ages 11 to 18.

In the future, Slimmer is looking to expand both the number of workshops and the scope of them as well.

“Currently our workshops focus on basic parenting skills. I would like to not only increase the number of the current workshops that we do, but also add new workshops that would focus on more specific topics and address the varied family units that exist in Oswego County. I would like to see workshops for teens who are parenting and those who are either single parenting or co-parenting as result of divorce or separation,” he said.

Slimmer also envisions a day when the Parent Education Program will work collaboratively with other agencies and individuals so that future workshops would be able to draw upon others knowledge and expertise and offer participants all the tools they need to become successful parents.

“I would like to establish a committee that would be able to offer the necessary resources to address any and all of the issues that parents are dealing with. Working collaboratively is the best way to provide parents with the skills they need to adequately provide for their children and strengthen their family bond,” he added.

For more information, call Slimmer at 598-3980.

Catholic Charities of Oswego County serves all people in need regardless of their religious affiliation.

Primary funding sources for Catholic Charities of Oswego County’s programs are the County of Oswego, the United Way of Greater Oswego County, the Diocesan Hope Appeal and private donations by individuals and local companies and organizations.