The parents were at their wits’ end. Whenever they tried to tell their 9-year-old twins to do anything, it usually led to yelling, fighting and defiance.
“They sort of had gotten to the point where they felt that there was nothing that worked,” said Rachel Galanter, executive director of The Exchange Family Center.
But after weeks of work with Galanter’s agency, the children are following directions the first time they’re given and the parents feel more positive about their relationship with their kids, Galanter said.
Now, a partnership between the Exchange Family Center and Durham County Department of Social Services will enable more families to get that kind of help.
The county recently was awarded a state grant of nearly $100,000 over three years to provide in-home coaching as well as case managers to connect parents with community programs.
Galanter and others says making such services more available will enhance parent-child interactions before they deteriorate to child-abuse or neglect levels.
Durham County received 1,496 reports of child abuse or neglect in 2014. About a third of those cases were verified, or found to be actual abuse or neglect. But even in some of the cases that did not rise to those levels, the investigator recommended that families get further services.
With the new funding, county staff say they will be able to help at least 25 parents better manage their children’s difficult behavior.
We know it can be overwhelming to be a parent.
Rachel Galanter, The Exchange Family Center
For instance, staff might teach parents how to recognize and acknowledge positive behavior and also how to deliver fair and consistent consequences, Galanter said.
Additionally, the case management will allow families to address other stresses, such as lack of child care, housing issues and financial difficulties.
“We know it can be overwhelming to be a parent,” Galanter said. “And when parents are overwhelmed and can’t be that responsive, nurturing person, that’s where the child’s behavior tends to escalate. But with support, we can help decrease parental stress and improve behavior so that the whole family is functioning better.”
The county plans to collect data over the next three years in the hopes the state might extend funding, said Danielle Bonner, the in-home and prevention services program manager for Durham County DSS.
Existing data already suggests that such interventions are needed, said Galanter.
“Sometimes people are very uncomfortable when you talk about preventing child abuse and they think you’re saying there’s something wrong or bad about the family,” she said. “But we would like people to realize that preventing child abuse means making sure that the family is getting its needs met so you can meet the needs of your children.”