Parenting Movement Meeting Families Where They Are
Parenting can be the most rewarding activity but it is also challenging. Countless books have been written on the topic. Relatives, friends and strangers give unsolicited advice alike, yet no one has all of the answers, and there are always obstacles to overcome.
Beech Acres Parenting Center has provided help and hope to families for more than 160 years. Their mission is based on the belief that every child deserves the opportunity to achieve their full potential in life and that parenting is the single greatest difference maker. Their goal? To support children in growing into caring, capable, contributing and connected adults.
The not-for-profit organization serves children by working hand-in-hand with parents and other caregivers. “Most organizations focus on the children and parents are secondary. We started looking into root causes for childhood problems and focused in on the parents,” says Jim Mason, president and CEO of Beech Acres. “There wasn’t a place for parents to reach out for guidance and support, education, counseling, whatever they needed.”
In his 35 years with the organization, Mason has led it through several transformations and always changing environments. Last year, Beech Acres partnered with more than 23,000 children, parents and caregivers through its more than 30 unique program offerings.
One of the catalysts for Beech Acres’ explosive growth has been the way in which they collaborate with key community partners to meet families where they live, whether that’s through pediatrician offices, schools, churches, or even community centers.
One such effort is pediatric care. “Pediatricians tell us that a significant percentage of office visits involve emotional, behavioral and parenting issues. Beech Acres can be a very valuable resource for those families,” says Mason.
As a starting point for serving families’ needs through pediatric care, Beech Acres established a Pediatric Advisory Council of local medical professionals to help address the problem. Christopher Bolling, MD, a provider at Pediatric Associates PSC, serves as chair of the Beech Acres Pediatric Advisory Council. “A lot of health indicators are related to parenting, so we’re looking at caring for children in a new way,” he says. “Beech Acres provides services and support to parents who need it. That education has the potential to impact the community not just through quality of life for families, but also with broader topics like education, achievement and economic impact.”
Dr. Bolling encourages parents to feel comfortable in asking questions during pediatrician visits. “Pediatricians do have insight and ample resources to point parents in the right direction. They should be open and flexible to thinking about parenting in ways that may not be intuitive.”
Beech Acres also partners with more than 20 schools in the region to provide support to parents. Their team of 39 providers collaborates with school counselors and administration to develop customized programs and services to support the unique needs of each particular school.
The Madeira School District has worked with Beech Acres for four years and finds their resources invaluable.
“Our partnership with Beech Acres has helped families become connected with community resources faster and in a caring and supportive manner,” says Julia Cabral, counselor at Madeira Middle School. “Parents know communication between the school and Beech Acres is open and fluid, which has a direct benefit to our students in the academic setting.”
Emily Scharfenberger is team lead of school-based services at Beech Acres Parenting Center. She works with school counselors to check in with students and determine a plan of action, which could require basic support and prevention services or crisis support and mental-health services.
“I can’t say enough about the counselors in this district; they truly care about the students and it shows,” says Scharfenberger. “We’re continually increasing our services to the schools, delivering benefits through our on-going partnership.”
One example involves a family whose mother passed away a year ago on Christmas Eve. Scharfenberger made the family a priority, working with the two students, boys in the ninth and seventh grades, and their grandmother, who became an important advocate for her grandchildren.
“We put a lot of support in place and the students are making amazing progress,” says Scharfenberger. “Everybody is working as a team, from the grandmother, to the school, to us – we’re all able to make a difference.”
Each parent and child has unique strengths to build upon, and Beech Acres creates a space in which to indentify and nourish those strengths. In addition to crisis support, Beech Acres bestows encouragement along the life cycle of a child as they develop and grow.
Jill Huynh, program director of parenting solutions for Beech Acres, recalls a single mother who needed help with her daughter, who was in the eighth grade when Huynh met them. The daughter was having trouble in school, with her friends and was lashing out at her mother, who felt like her daughter hated her.
“We did coaching around developmental milestones so mom would know what was going on with her daughter, who was going through a lot of changes,” says Huynh.
For three years the mother contacted Huynh at the start of each school year to go over challenges and to recalibrate her relationship with her daughter.
“Over time I saw the mother was no longer defeated. She felt empowered, and that’s exactly what we want to have happen,” says Huynh. “Everyone thinks that parents should know what to do, that it’s an unwritten rule, but it’s different for every single child. We use our experience to walk parents through whatever challenges they may face.”
Beech Acres employs a three-part approach to parenting: intentional, strength-based and mindful. “With the support of our generous donors, we’re creating a parenting movement, educating the community to foster an ideal environment in which our children will thrive,” says Mason. “Parents love their kids more than anything else and it’s our goal to equip them with the tools they need to discover their own unique path in parenting.”
Beech Acres Parenting Center has four locations throughout the Greater Cincinnati area. To learn more about how you can support Beech Acres’ work and tap into parenting resources for your family and community, call 513.231.6630 or visit at www.beechacres.org.