Fathers make a critical impact

It’s early morning, and I’m sitting here enjoying a cup of coffee and watching “Hope Floats.” I’ve already cried while watching the scene in the movie where Birdie visits her dad in the nursing home. While she’s making herself busy hanging pictures in his room and filling the silence with chit-chat, she turns around to see him standing with his arms out to her. She steps in, and they dance. I’m a daddy’s girl. I’m sure to my mother it was as much a joy as it was an irritation. A joy because she wouldn’t have wanted it any other way for me, and an irritation because I am an only child, and I’m sure it often seemed to be two against one to her (even though I think she usually won). In the world of working with young children, it’s often the mother with whom we engage. In many cases, she’s both momma and daddy to her kids. So I was excited to tell you last month about the trend we’re seeing among teen dads enrolling in our Adolescent Parenting Program with the actual intention to learn how to be good parents to their children. It seems to me that there has been a good cultural shift for fathers — one where this current generation of young fathers is more engaged, starting with being in the room when their babies are born. My own father would have never considered that a possibility. Even so, while we’re seeing this positive cultural trend, our nation is also experiencing what has been labeled a “father crisis.” According to the U.S. Census...

Good news on teen pregnancies

Years ago, I remember walking into the den while my daughter was watching the reality TV show “16 and Pregnant.” I was initially shocked. MTV was pretty much a “no-no” in my house, and she was still pretty young to be watching it, in my opinion. Instead of freaking out, I decided to watch an episode with her and let it launch a conversation that I’ve tried to keep open since then. Trust me, the episode was wrought with all kinds of teen drama, giving us plenty of things to talk about. At that time, I would have never believed that reality TV shows like this one would be credited, in part, for a nationwide drop in teen pregnancy. In 2014, a study estimated that teen births dropped 6 percent in the 18 months following the show’s release. Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the news that teen pregnancy is on the decline in the nation. The same holds true here in Henderson County, and we at the Children & Family Resource Center couldn’t be more relieved. Our work with teen parents has long had us aware of the need for better access to information for teenagers and for support for parents to help them gain knowledge and confidence to talk to their teens about sex. Obviously, the reason for the decline in teen pregnancy is about much more than reality TV shows. A 2014 study by the Guttmacher Policy Review identifies two reasons that are at the opposite sides of the arguments about what to do about sex education. Those reasons: • Fewer teens...

Going Upstream for Crisis Prevention

Imagine you and I are taking a walk together. We’re strolling through the woods on a sunny, warm day when we hear water and people in the distance. We walk toward the sound and come up to a river rushing fast from recent rain. We are alarmed to see people in the water being swept away by the current. We also see a crowd of people standing on the banks, working furiously to pull them to safety. We rush to join the crowd on the banks and begin working alongside them, pulling people out as quickly as we can. It seems the harder we work, the more people there are to be rescued. In the intensity of the rescue work, someone steps back and says, “Has anyone bothered to go upstream and see how all of these people are getting here to begin with?” Perhaps you’ve heard this story before. It is one of prevention, and we’ve been telling it forever at the Children & Family Resource Center. At its core, it describes who we are in this community. Our intent is to be an agency that is working upstream to keep people out of the crisis. To do that, we focus our work on children in their earliest years of life — believing we can have the greatest impact on their future, and our future, by intervening in those earliest years. April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Last month, I talked to you about foster care and the wonderful opportunity we have to love children in our community. There are 153 children in foster care in Henderson...

Make a difference in kids’ lives

“DSS dropped off a 4-day-old baby girl today.” A huge smile crept across my face, and at the same time, tears filled my eyes in a mixture of both joy and sadness when I read that in a text message. Sadness about whatever unknown situation had a 4-day-old baby needing a safe and secure home, and joy that my friends would get to be her foster parents. Last fall, I had the pleasure to serve as a reference for this dear family who, despite having a house full of four very lively little boys, knew they had room in their home, and in their hearts, to provide for another child. In my world of providing services and support to children and families, it is well known that there is a great need for licensed foster parents to provide homes for children in Henderson County as well as families who can provide respite care for foster parents. Currently, the county holds custody of 158 children; however, there are only 58 foster homes in our county to serve them. When homes are not available, children are placed in homes in neighboring communities, disrupting school, community and support systems for the child. All children need caring adults in their homes, and throughout their community, to take an interest in their well-being. According to the N.C. Pediatric Society (state chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics), foster children “demonstrate disproportionately high rates of physical, reproductive, oral/dental, developmental, behavioral/emotional, cognitive, educational and social dysfunction compared to the general child population.” Abused and neglected children are 11 times more likely to be arrested for criminal...

Child care has long-term impact

I can hardly wait to cheer on “our” home team, the Carolina Panthers, on Super Bowl Sunday! It is easy to see how having national sports teams feed our state’s economy. The money that the sports industry generates is obvious, and it clearly impacts many associated markets. Would you believe me if I told you that the child care industry in North Carolina generates more than $1.7 billion a year, and that figure is on par with the revenue generated by the spectator sports industry in North Carolina (think Carolina Panthers, Carolina Hurricanes and Charlotte Hornets)? I was pretty surprised to learn that fact, even though I am keenly aware of the economic infrastructure child care provides to our workforce. The Committee for Economic Development estimates that North Carolina’s child care industry supports an additional $1.3 billion in indirect and induced output to other industry sectors. A child care center is a small business that employs staff, pays taxes and supports other employers by providing care to the children of their employees. In North Carolina, there are 16,641 child care establishments serving nearly 500,000 children and providing nearly 50,000 jobs. Child care allows parents to work outside the home and is essential to the success of the state’s business sector. Employers report a decrease in absenteeism due to family issues (a cost of $2.75 billion each year to North Carolina businesses) and an increase in productivity when their employees have access to stable, quality child care. The Federal Reserve Bank has numerous bodies of research illustrating the economic impact early childhood investments have on our nation’s economy, and how...

Our “Pit Crew” Fills a Vital Need

My family’s Eastern North Carolina roots meant I grew up with NASCAR in the background on TV. I barely paid attention, and outside of being able to tell you that a man named Richard Petty drove a race car, I couldn’t have told you a thing about the sport until I attended my first race in the fall of 2014. I was lucky enough to learn a little bit about it from a former NASCAR pit crew member who patiently explained it to me. There’s much more to it than cars going fast around a track. My favorite part may have been watching the pit crew at work. It is fascinating.  As much as winning the race depends on a great car and a talented driver, it also depends on the performance of the pit crew, who can either shave off or add thousandths of a second to a car’s time. Those thousandths of a second could win or lose a race. If you watch a pit crew in action, seven members function like a machine, completely in sync with one another. In a span of fewer than 15 seconds, cars are jacked up, four tires changed, windshields are cleaned, gas tanks are filled, shocks are adjusted, and mechanical adjustments are made to the car. They do it all with a limited number of tools: two wrenches, one jack and two cans of gasoline. Today’s pit crew members have to be in top physical condition and even train like athletes. In fact, NASCAR actively recruits conditioned college athletes as pit crew members. Winning is the goal. This past year,...