Inside the ACCS Visitation Center: An Interview with Parent Mentor Karyn Armstrong

By Sherry Davis

September 30, 2014

The ACCS visitation center, and the dedicated people who work there, are responsible for facilitating the transportation and visits for families who have children living in temporary foster or kinship care. In 2013 our visitation center facilitated 1,244 visits between children and their birth families, and that number is on pace to increase again this year. Find out first hand about some of the challenges our staff encounter when trying to help families achieve reunification.

  1. The ACCS Visitation Center provides a safe and positive way for children to visit with their parents as their families go through a difficult and transitional time. What are the specific services available for families?

The three primary services we provide are visitation, transportation (limited), and parent mentoring. Visits for families whose children are in the custody of the agency range from supervised to being monitored in the home. The visits are usually arranged twice per week for two hours. During the school year, evening meals are provided by the agency to allow parents and children to share a meal together. Transportation is available to those clients being assisted by agency caseworkers. This transportation is used for most case related activity that the agency deems necessary. Parent mentoring is used to assess families with parental needs and to build their existing parenting skills.

  1. What are your primary responsibilities as a parent Mentor? Can you give us a few examples of your most challenging moments and most rewarding experiences in this role?

 

My primary responsibilities are to provide individual support, child development and parenting information to parents. I assess, teach and demonstrate appropriate parenting skills that will help reduce the risk of abuse or neglect and enhance the skills parents already possess. All services are provided at the family’s home or at the agency. The referrals that I receive for services primarily come through the caseworkers. It is my responsibility to go over the referrals with the family to assess which areas they need to work on most. We then develop a Parent Mentor Service Plan and set up goals to address concerns that were in the referral. I typically work with families on a short-term basis which may consist of 5-8 visits to the home.  But in certain cases, I may work with a family on a long-term basis. 

My most challenging moments come from parents who feel they are doing everything right and don’t particularly want my service. I try to let them know that as parents there is something we can learn every week. I target the area they could use some help in and go from there.

One of my most rewarding experiences as a Parent Mentor includes working with a family with three children. The parents felt they were doing everything right with their children but they didn’t always following through with consequences.  They didn’t see the point if eventually the child did what they wanted. Sometimes the parents forgot the consequence or made it last too long. Both parents yelled often to get the children to do what they wanted. I explained to the parents, that it is important for them to set rules for their children’s behavior and to follow through appropriately. We came up with several goals on our Parent Mentor Service Plan. One of them was to let the children know the new rules for their behaviors and if they didn’t follow through they would have a consequence. We continued to have home visits and further discussed the fact that all children need boundaries and consequences.  Seeing the growth the parents made when learning new techniques to parent their children was one of my most rewarding experiences.

  1. As summer ends and children return to the classroom, the visitation center becomes a flurry of activity. What are some of the activities associated with back to school time and autumn season?

The visitation center offers evening meals to families. These meals are very nutritious and we use foods that were grown in our very own garden.  It is really neat to see the children and parents as they try new foods they have never tried and really enjoy them.

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