YWCA offers safe harbor for kids in storms

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Friday, June 1, 2012
— When Lindsay and her two sons arrived at the YWCA shelter, her 5-year-old was stressed and acting out.

Today, he is calmer. His attitude and behavior have improved.

His 24-year-old mother credits services from YWCA of Rock County's Alternatives To Violence Program that focus on the needs of children from homes with domestic violence.

Last year, domestic abuse programs in Wisconsin provided shelter to 3,200 children, who make up nearly half of all residents at domestic violence shelters statewide, according to the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

The local YWCA helped 68 children and 111 women in 2011, said Beth Wheelock, public relations director. On a recent day, the Alternatives to Violence Program was serving 17 children and 12 women.

Services include weekly child support groups, homework tutoring, counseling with children and their moms and positive parenting classes, said Jessica Box, child advocate.

Support group projects for children focus on self-esteem, anger management, safety, domestic violence and sexual assault prevention, she said.

Earlier this week, children were learning how to communicate their feelings through all-about-me collages. After looking through magazines, the children picked pictures of things they liked and disliked before a group discussion.

"It helps the children be able to express their feelings and should help their self-esteem," Box said.

"It also helps them appreciate their individuality and discover it's OK to be interested in this and that and not what they've been told is the norm," said Latreece Sandlin, program director.

Box said homework tutoring Monday through Thursday is enhanced by her meetings with moms to find out where their children need help. If moms have parenting concerns, she meets with them individually to share strategies.

That's what Lindsay found most beneficial.

"The advocate here is extremely helpful in giving me discipline tips," she said.

Lindsay said her son now is more receptive when she's trying to communicate with him.

"I get down to his level and speak in a calm voice instead of raising my voice. So he understands and listens better instead of tuning me out," she said.

The Alternatives to Violence Program has partnered with the Exchange Family Resource Center to offer a nurturing parenting program on site. YWCA staff now in training will become the instructors.

Positive parenting is important, Sandlin said.

"It helps the children be successful, to be able to concentrate on school, grades and a better relationship with mom," she said.

Many times when families are in violent situations, mothers aren't able to focus on being the parents they'd like to be because they're trying to protect their children, Sandlin said.

"Classes help establish a bond and strengthen that bond between mom and children," she said.

Over the years, the YWCA has adapted to meet the needs of children.

That's why it started a computer lab, Sandlin said.

"If they need to do homework or research a subject for a paper, they can use the computers. We try to make it as similar to home as possible so they're comfortable," she said.

The YWCA "adapts through a pattern of continuous improvement," Sandlin said, "because every family dynamic is different."

Last updated: 8:53 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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