|Family Is Bedrock|
|Written by James R. Haj, Special to the BT|
The Children’s Trust expands its work across the county
With the eyes of the world still locked on Washington, D.C., the Children’s Trust continues to look inward, toward Miami-Dade County’s most distressed neighborhoods and communities, where families depend on the programs and services we support.
That’s great news for mothers like Treniessia and her developmentally challenged six-year-old son, Tray-Von. An attentive teacher at his West Little River after-school program learned he was being bullied daily on his way to the program, but thanks to that extra pair of loving eyes, Mom was able to quickly address the issue. Today Tray-Von is again the happy child he once was, excited about excelling in school and making new friends.
“His temperament has changed a lot,” says Treniessia. “And he’s starting to be a little more independent.”
Tray-Von is one of nearly 25,000 kids attending a quality after-school or youth enrichment program funded by the Trust. These programs increase school readiness, literacy, and academic success; offer year-round opportunities to participate in the arts and sports; and provide children and youths with safe learning environments when they’re not in school. Staff fill not just the roles of educators/mentors, but of family, stepping in to look out for their charges’ best interests when their parents are at work.
For Carline, a mother in Little Haiti, it’s the parenting program she attended that’s made a difference for her and her three-year-old daughter, Ann-Carla. Offered in her native language and taught by people who understand who she is and where she came from, Carline says she’s learned a lot from the program -- and that she’s a better parent because of it.
“I was made to feel very welcome, right from the beginning,” she says, “especially because the class is taught by Haitians, for Haitians.”
Parenting programs that strengthen families by giving them the tools they need to manage conflict, minimize stress, and build positive relationships -- delivered through a culturally sensitive approach -- are a hallmark of the Trust. Family is the bedrock of a strong community, and it’s why we funded a variety of parenting programs in three different languages across Miami-Dade last year, and why we’ll continue to do that and more as we move forward.
Other programs, created to help families with specialized needs, often provide benefits beyond what’s expected. Just ask Laquita.
Because of the North Miami mother’s involvement in a Trust-funded program, she and her seven children are able to see their incarcerated father every three months. The structured, family-friendly visits not only keep the precious parent-child bond intact, they strengthen it.
“The kids love the visits -- we all look forward to them,” says Laquita. “We sit and talk, play games, and do special activities tied to the holidays, like a parade with paper hats and drums that the children made for the Fourth of July.”
It was during such a visit that a Trust staff member, volunteering in support of the program, began chatting with one of Laquita’s sons. So impressed was she with the intelligent and well-spoken child that she arranged for him to meet David Lawrence Jr., our founding board chair, hoping he’d agree to serve as the boy’s mentor. He did.
“He’s a smart young man and a natural leader,” says Lawrence. “I take great joy in helping him fulfill his potential -- and his potential is huge.”
For countless other mothers and fathers, it wasn’t a program or a class that changed their lives, but the simple act of being able to spend a day at the park with their children. From East Little Havana and western North Miami to Liberty City and South Miami Heights, the Trust’s community engagement team has been helping residents transform formerly blighted city parks into neighborhood hubs where they can safely engage in activities and events.
Case in point: Riverside Park, where a recent Saturday saw hundreds of children and their families enjoy 25 tons of manmade snow, tubing, snowball fights, and hot chocolate, among other winter wonderland-type delights. The day was a triumph -- but until the Trust stepped in, drug and criminal activity had driven area residents away from the park for years.
As a direct line of communication between ourselves and the families we serve, the community engagement team was created to mobilize residents to develop solutions to issues particular to their neighborhoods and enact real change.
These stories and more can be found in our 2016 annual report; we invite you to download it at www.thechildrenstrust.org. As we take a look back at these most recent triumphs, we’re also moving ahead with a renewed sense of purpose, because the work of the Children’s Trust isn’t just measured in numbers or percentages, but in the faces of the children and families who count on us to make it through the day, every day.
James R. Haj is president and CEO of the Children’s Trust.
Volume 15, Issue 1, March 2017
Miami’s YoungArts Week features masters as mentors
Sales, special events, and more from the people who make Biscayne Times possible