SBEC: Remember the children

The Covid-19 Pandemic has dominated what we hear, what we say, what we do. In the midst of all this: What about the children? How is the stress, fear, and uncertainty plus the sustained physical confinement impacting the children? Is there help for the parents?

It seems particularly timely and important to highlight work being done to help parents better understand their role and develop effective ways to interact with their children. Through the collaborative work of Cynthia M. Legin-Bucell, Ph.D., the American Psychological Association with their Adult and Children Together Program (ACT), Erie’s Children’s Advocacy Center and Saint Benedict Education Center, a multi-session parenting class has been offered three times at SBEC. The most recent offering was interrupted by the facility closing in March.

In 2017 Dr. Legin-Bucell, Professor Emeritus, Department of Psychology, Edinboro University, attended the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association (APA). She became familiar with the Adult and Children Together, Raising Safe Kids Program, and returned to Erie excited with the possibilities it offered to parents and children here. Dr. Legin-Bucell discussed the program with Michael Gaines, Executive Director of the Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC), and the executive committee about possible implementation of it. As a member of the CAC’s Board Dr. Legin-Bucell knew of the agency’s desire to expand their efforts to prevent child abuse and protect children. All agreed ACT would be a good fit.

There are several things, besides the issues considered, that make this program appealing and effective. The process is designed to be collaborative. Group participants engage with each other in the learning process, turning to their peers for insight and answers as they deal with issues raised by the facilitator. Ownership is taken on by the participants. The role of the facilitator for ACT is to introduce the various topics/issues to be considered; to generally maintain the movement of the class; to offer observations/insights/questions when useful, but not “to teach” the answers. This balance of roles and responsibilities enables all – parents in the group and the facilitator – to grow in knowledge and understanding and to acquire a sense of accomplishment.

The goal of the Adult and Children Together, Raising Safe Kids Program, according to the APA website is to strengthen families by improving or changing parenting skills that create safe, nurturing, stable early environments and positive experiences that protect children from violence, trauma, and its consequences. This goal is addressed through nine, two-hour sessions led by a trained facilitator who actively engages the parent-participants, as noted above. Each session includes “journaling” and “homework” as well as two “take-aways”.

How did SBEC get involved in the program? Dr. Legin-Bucell was familiar with SBEC and knew Nancy Sabol, M.A., Director of Saint Benedict Education Center from her work at Gannondale as well as from the Psychology Department at Edinboro University. She called Nancy to see if there was interest. There definitely was interest on the part of SBEC.

Dr. Cynthia M. Legin-Bucell notes: “The Children’s Advocacy Center continues to spearhead ACT throughout the county and has been working to build relationships with other non-profits and agencies to offer ACT in order to help Erie families and in turn neighborhoods be healthier in their response to frustration, anger, etc. and in turn be less likely to engage in violence... currently SBEC is the CAC’s only ongoing site for ACT though others are in development.”

Why is SBEC committed to this program? Certainly because of the purpose and design of the program itself. Saint Benedict Education Center is committed to working in a collaborative way, both within the agency and with other agencies. If we can help our clients more effectively parent, their chances of success are far greater. The involvement of Dr. Legin-Bucell also made this endeavor attractive. She brings with her expertise and a deep commitment to families and children, as well as a connection with the Benedictine Sisters, SBEC, Nancy Sabol, and the other agencies presently or soon to be involved. Someone remarked, she’s “tying the threads together” and SBEC is glad to be one of the threads – as we “remember the children”.

Stay tuned for: The parenting program offered at SBEC