OAKLEY -- As a young mother with a special-needs child, Laura Hernandez was feeling "alone and isolated." She had no real support and no outlet away from her special needs child or her other children.
To add to her complications, English is her second language, and she had a hard time finding those who shared her concerns or help in dealing with her children now and in the future.
When she heard about the "Grupo de Apoyo para Padres" several months ago, Hernandez decided she was the perfect candidate for the parents support group. Like many parents of children with disabilities, she had a hard time coping with the stress of parenting a special-needs child, but upon graduation from the 10-week course in Oakley, she found the inspiration she needed, as well as friendships that she hopes will provide continued support.
"What I found in this class will not only help me succeed as a parent but help my child become a better citizen," said Hernandez, an Antioch resident.
Mireya Barajas, and her 2½-year-old son Maxiliano, attended the classes to help her deal with stressful situations. With another child soon on the way, Barajas will have her hands full with two small children.
"The program really helps with teaching patience," Barajas said.
She finds it useful to learn about the different stages a child goes through, explaining they may act this way now but change within the next couple of years. As a parent, she feels better understanding the stages of change and how to cope with them.
The program, provided free by Care Parent Network along with two other county organizations, Contra Costa County First 5 and Counseling Options and Parent Education (COPE), was developed to help parents garner the power of positive parenting, to help raise confident, competent and resilient children.
"This course isn't teaching anything new but helping the parents internalize and remember to use the parenting skills they already have," said Cathy Botello of COPE, whose organization helped to develop the Triple P-Positive Parenting Program that the parent support group uses.
Botello explains that the program is all about planning. "Some parents dread the idea of taking their special needs children out into public situations," she said. "The program teaches parents to prepare for the high-risk settings by making simple decisions. For example, bringing something to distract the child when they might otherwise get too stressed."
Botello said a program like this, which specializes in working Latino families, could not be possible without organizers like Angela Gattis, a Care Parent Network family support specialist who runs the "Grupo de Apoyo para Padres" program. Gattis is bilingual and can help the Spanish-speaking parents understand the program better.
This program is at a close but will continue again in the spring. All three organizations offer help for families, not only with special needs children but also with a wide array of needs.
For more information on the Care Parenting Network and other programs working with the unique challenges of parenting a child with disabilities, visit www.careparentnetwork.org.