By the end of this month, a mother of two struggling with a mental health disability and an autistic son will no longer need the weekly assistance of a Family Resource Center parent aide.
“She’s doing so great,” FRC Parent Aide Danielle McDaniel said Tuesday. “When I first started working with her, she’d just moved from another state and didn’t have any furniture, her 4-year-old was not in school and she was dealing with a mental illness herself. I helped her navigate the Division of Family and Children Services, get hooked up with doctors, get furniture and on the Toys For Tots list for Christmas gifts, improve her life skills as a parent and get enrolled in cosmetology school.”
To McDaniel and FRC Executive Director Tina Bartleson, helping families gain the parenting and life skills they need to live independently is what it’s all about.
And thanks to a $70,000, two-year Community Impact Grant from the United Way of Rome & Floyd County, the Exchange Parent Aide program will be able to help stabilize an additional 80 families over the grant cycle from 2020 to 2022.
“With this grant money, we’ll be able to deepen the life skills training that focus on overcoming barriers brought on by poverty and lack of knowledge about resources available,” Bartleson said Monday after learning of the United Way award. “Poverty puts a lot of stress on families and that can translate down to the children and sometimes lead to abuse and neglect. We want to do everything we can to prevent that from happening.”
Since the Exchange Club of Rome’s Family Resource Center opened in 1991, its Parent Aide program has served nearly 5,700 children within about 3,600 families, Bartleson said.
Partnering with other nonprofits such as Davies Shelters and local clinics, the grant funds also will help some families overcome barriers that prevent access to safe and stable housing and medical care, she said.
“We have a great relationship with the shelters,” Bartleson said. “The women and children are required to connect with one of our parent aides so we’re able to provide that case management piece and the Ruth and Naomi House can focus on other avenues. We’re providing a lot of tangible assistance for the moms there, which helps them start focusing on other skills sets.”
And it’s the six parent aides themselves, going out into the field and working one-on-one with the families, that make all the difference, Bartleson said.
Still making her way in the world herself, 24-year-old McDaniel said she knew when she graduated with her human services degree in July of last year that FRC was the place to be.
“All of my life I felt like I’ve been called to work with people and children,” she said, adding that she worked with about 45 families last year, averaging about 15 each month.
“I get to work with families who need help nurturing their children or navigating the school system or figuring out how to use food stamps. I can also be a voice for them, an advocate for them. I can’t think of anything I’d want to do more. It’s so satisfying.”