By Charles Hallman
Over 30 local parents were honored at an event at the State Capitol on Friday, February 10 as part of National Parent Leadership Month, co-sponsored by Prevent Child Abuse Minnesota (PCAMN) and several other local organizations.
“This is really about you,” State Representative Rena Moran of St. Paul told the gathering of parents, children and others, including Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton and fellow State Representative Bobby Joe Champion of Minneapolis. “It was really nice for the governor to come out and recognize what these parents are doing,” said PCA Minnesota Parent Leader Consultant Lisa Deputie, who coordinated last week’s event.
“This is about recognizing that families and parents are doing good work in their communities and in their households,” said Moran, who also is PCAMN’s parent leader coordinator. “We need to recognize and uplift them.”
Parents are “unsung heroes,” said PCAMN’s Becky Dale, who explained that the 2012 honorees were classified in five categories: amazing moms, incredible dads, parents advocating for stronger communities, parent role models, and organizations partnering with parents to strengthen families.
One of the 12 “Amazing Moms” was Lakenya Crenshaw-Atkins of St. Paul, a mother of three sons ages five, six and seven. She is currently working on her master’s degree at Metro State University, but she is also very involved with children’s education issues, a school volunteer, and member of a couple of state-wide committees.
“It feels nice that someone else recognizes when another person is doing something with a passion and heart that every child succeed,” said Crenshaw-Atkins. “It’s a beautiful honor.”
“I don’t consider myself a leader,” admitted Charles Dixon of Minneapolis, who nominated four of the “Incredible Dads.” A father himself, he told the group that many fathers don’t know sometimes how to avoid distractions “that interfere with our parenting.”
When it comes to care-giving, fathers are too often overlooked by officials, added Deputie. “They don’t look for the dad first, but a mom or grand mom. Research shows that kids benefit in so many ways when they have that father presence in their lives.”
“Nowadays, it is hard to raise a family,” said Harry Fulford of St. Paul. “Being a father and being recognized for holding in there and holding down your family is a great thing. It is not about money but love, respect and responsibility, and teaching your kids morals.”
The St. Paul YWCA was one of two organizations honored for partnering with parents. “We know that the work that we do is greatly influenced by the parents that we serve and the young people who are connected to the parents,” said Special Initiatives Coordinator Jeremiah Ellis. “We work with a lot of fathers who have challenges but need support.”
There are five “protective factors” for families, said Deputie: nurturing and attachment, knowledge of parenting and child and youth
development, parental resilience, and social connections with concrete supports for parents. “If put in place, these five factors will prevent child abuse and neglect and help develop stronger families and stronger outcomes,” she believes. “It creates a better family unit.”
“A child isn’t always acting out, but they are developing,” noted Jacquie Thomas of Circle of Parents, a community-based support group for parents and their children. It also is part of a national network of such support groups.
“We always look at teenagers as acting out, but developmentally there are things going on in their brains,” explained Thomas of St. Paul, who’s a mother of a teenager. “If you don’t have the reasoning part of our brain operating, it’s hard to always make the right choices.”
Thomas said if teachers and others recognize this, “We would be a little bit more accepting and…love and accept our children. We have to help and support them better.”
“Overall,” said Deputie at the event’s conclusion, “it was a very good ceremony.”
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.