Health studies have found more than half of surveyed Lowcountry adults reported an adverse childhood experience like neglect and abuse. One educational program is looking to help combat that number.
Since it’s launch in March, Lowcountry agencies have hosted the Strengthening Families Program, a weekly family course for parents and their children. The course is a 14-week program that looks to build stronger family relationships.
The Carolina Youth Development Center, National Youth Advocate Program and Lutheran Services Carolinas are three South Carolina agencies that work in supporting families. Each of the organizations also received a $75,000 grant this year to establish a Strengthening Families Program in their communities.
The grant was awarded by the Children's Trust of South Carolina, a statewide organization that dedicates itself to child abuse, injury and neglect.
“It’s available to every parent," said Chris Rollison, the Lowcountry Strengthening Families Program coordinator for the Children's Trust. “Every parent needs help.”
The grant is specifically for children between the ages of 6 and 11. But all of the programs have experts who can look after children of all ages at no cost.
Families commit to around two hours a week for the course. Each session starts with a free family dinner.
They then break off into separate sessions. The children are in one session with expert instructors and the parents are in another.
“It really is something," said Julie Schneider, a director with the National Youth Advocate Program.
Schneider explained that during this session, parents are being educated on communication skills. They teach them about how to talk to their children.
The children's session is going through the same thing. But the focus is on communication with parents. The beauty of this session, Schneider said, is that the children and parents are able to talk to their peers about similar questions and concerns.
After this session, the families then come together for one final class. They are also given homework to do as a family.
Schneider explained that the goal of the program reflects it's name. By the end of the 14 weeks, they want families to be stronger.
“And that’s going to involve better communications, better respect, better understanding, more empathy," she said.
Julie Hood, a child service director with Luther Services Carolinas, thinks the program has been successful.
“It’s been really good to see the parents and the relationship with the children," she said.
Today there are three programs in the Lowcountry. Two are in Charleston County. One is in Berkeley County. Lutheran Services Carolinas handles West Ashley, the National Youth Advocate Program handles North Charleston and The Carolina Youth Development Center works with Berkeley County.
Interested families can reach out to any of the organizations to get connected to a course. The programs also offer transportation for families with challenges.