Items such as school and art supplies included in tote bags
to help children of parents enrolled in parenting classes at the Child Abuse Prevention Council office in El Centro are shown April 30. | WILLIAM ROLLER PHOTO
EL CENTRO — It is never easy being a parent but a parent never need be alone, Yvette Garcia likes to remind the clients she serves as executive director of the Child Abuse Prevention Council.
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, as families struggle to stay healthy and comply with the state’s stay-at-home orders, CAP has taken the initiative to provide its clients with Family Fun Bags.
These lightweight totes include school and art supplies, age-appropriate story books, markers, construction paper, coloring books and even a rope to jump and a ball. The fun bags are a response to help children through the isolation of sheltering in place.
“We wanted to provide parents with the tools to keep children engaged and strengthen them in a fun way,” said Garcia. “We had a one-way alley along our office so it was perfect to have a drive-by to distribute the fun bags with no contact. We scheduled parents to arrive by their children’s class at an assigned time and had two staff (members) load the bags into trunks.”
The arrangement worked out well with no more than three cars in a line between 9 a.m. and noon as the organization distributed 50 bags of supplies April 29-30. CAP staffers were careful to wear face masks and maintain social distance.
CAP’s sponsors for the drive included Imperial County Behavioral Health Services, the county Department of Social Services, First Five Imperial, United Way of Imperial, Imperial Valley Community Foundation and In-N-Out (Burger) Foundation.
But CAP is not an organization to rest on its laurels. It seeks to distribute 500 fun bags and already submitted a grant application, is seeking support from another benefactor and will solicit support from others in the coming months.
“The reason we feel Family Fun Bags are so crucial is to ease parental stress,” said Garcia. “Who knows in these uncertain times, but these stresses lead to a lot of frustration. Here in California child abuse reports are down 70 percent from before COVID.”
Garcia then explained, “The reason is because kids are no longer in school and also missing after-school programs and daycare. The staff there, who are mandated to report suspected cases of abuse, are not seeing these kids to know if something is going wrong. Mandated reports make up the majority of calls when schools are ordinarily in session.”
The fun bags also help CAP stay in contact with children and parents and give them a support network. Meanwhile, CAP parenting classes transitioned from the classroom to Zoom video and other digital platforms.
CAP’s parenting classes focus on sharpening the skills that smooth the path for parents to shepherd infants to pre-school, primary grades and into the teenage years. This allows children to meet challenges with confidence and prepare for college and career, Garcia said.
Classes in session when COVID-19 struck are just wrapping up. The data CAP acquires from reviewing the online classes helps it change and improve the quality of the distance-learning approach.
“We have parents fill out a satisfaction survey and a pre- and post-class questionnaire,” said Garcia. “We examine this to see if parents have changed practices of parenting. Obviously, there is a learning curve as we accumulate data. We’ll know where to implement changes. Our curriculum is such a great program it helps parents to select among the many best practices they can embrace.”
Parents want their children to be strong and confident in a positive way and CAP aims to show how parents can successfully raise children without physical punishment and strengthen the parent/child bond.
“During the COVID crisis it’s the worst of all possibilities since parents must wear a lot of hats while sheltering in place. Our programs and the Family Fun Bags help ease some of the stress,” Garcia added.