“I’m at the end of my rope. Where do I turn?” A mother of four tries to improve herself through college studies while raising her kids with no help from their father. Child Parent Institute’s (CPI’s) in-home parent counseling services provides positive solutions resulting in a better home life. Sometimes parents need a time-out. A positive parenting attitude has enormous benefits for children.

Since 1978, Sonoma County families of all types and means have benefited from Child Parent Institute’s services including educating parents and providing children’s mental health services. A full complement of care includes child therapy, family resource assistance, parent education, facilitated supervised visitation, and a non-public school for adolescent special education/ mental health services.

“My wife is a drug addict. I can’t leave my children home alone with her. But I need to go to work to support them. What do I do?” A father of two toddlers needed to work and care for his kids while his wife sought counseling. Desperately needing help, he phoned CPI. With a customized menu of resources, this father feels more confident as a parent and better able to make good choices for his children. Sometimes the hardest part of parenting is to live with uncertainties about the future. But children can know a feeling of security, even in the most stressful situations, as long as their parents remain attentive to their needs.

Starting a family and sustaining a family are different ends of a spectrum. For some parents financial concerns are paramount – how to afford a place to live, provide good food and medical care for all and be decent parents while working multiple jobs? For others the need may be for skills to help better communication, end abusive or addictive behavior or save a marriage. Children need everything their parents need, and more, as they don’t have the knowledge or coping skills experience brings.

Community Foundation Sonoma County granted $10,000 to CPI through its Basic Human Needs Fund. CPI’s cadre of resource assistants know well and scour thoroughly through a vast array of grants, donations and sister programs while the Foundation’s funds provide emergency assistance for food, shelter, basic supplies, utilities, and rental assistance. These occur at the critical moments when a relatively small amount of money really makes a difference.

“My wife left me with an autistic child. I have PTSD and there’s just too much to deal with.”This child with many issues often wet the bed. In the long run a new mattress or mattress cover won’t solve the problem, but a donation of adult diapers for this 10-year-old was a beginning. The trailer they lived in had rickety stairs and the dad had to pick up his child to get him inside. CPI had leftover lumber from construction and hired a contractor to build new steps. Caregivers don’t have to raise children all by themselves. They have access to a larger web of support. One of CPI’s goals is to offer all parents and caregivers a lifeline to the most appropriate community services. Sometimes the smallest things make the biggest difference.

Grace Harris is CPI’s Parent Resource Director. She has the mostly-satisfying-but-often-tough job of making decisions based on need when very little extra money is available. In fact, grants for dire situations are often drained before half the year is over. Says Grace, “When there is a concrete need, a small assist can make a difference between staying in their home or not. In Sonoma County we really don’t want someone to lose their home. It’s such a tight and expensive rental market.”

The stories of need are endlessly varied and literally endless. Harries cites examples of how CFSC Basic Human Needs funds are applied to emergency situations: “A mother with a disabled child’s rent is $1,200. Even though she works hard, her hours were cut – she needed to keep her apartment. The check was given to her landlord and we counseled her on going to Santa Rosa Junior College to work on improving her skills and income. Imagine trying to raise first and last month’s rent?”  “Another family needed just three nights of temporary lodging until a family member could give them a trailer to live in. So we put them up in a hotel, but not without a plan going forward. One of the kids said ‘I’m not going back to school until I can take a shower.’

“When I needed it most, CPI’s help kept us in our apartment . . .” A check for $800 was recently received by CPI from a man who was helped with his rent when it looked like he would lose his living space. He still didn’t have a lot of money, but his life had improved significantly since that time. He is paying it forward. A small assist with utilities, rent, transportation, orthodontia or school clothes for kids can change the course of a family’s history.

“We have all these programs, but some families have $5 left at the end of the month. These kids can’t go to movies or cheerleading camp but the Boys & Girls Club for the summer is a nice thing to do for the mom. We have Resource Assistants who look down every available avenue. We have Parent Educators who know how to help a family get food or sign up for MediCal. Sometimes they need food cards . . . kids might get breakfast and lunch here at CPI, but at the end of the month when money runs out, we can help deal with PG&E for a low-income plan, make a connection to Redwood Empire Food Bank, or partner with many other wonderful partners we have in this community.”

It’s clear that a little bit of help can make a major difference in the life of a family. CPI is a well-established organization, is well run and through their services they are in a direct, trusting relationship with low-income families and well-positioned to help them to grow healthy and thriving.

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