CONCORD -- "Parenting is not for wimps," said Cathy Botello, COPE executive director.

The Counseling Options and Parent Education Support Center, a resource for families looking for parenting help, has opened in Concord.

"People in all economic levels are struggling in these changing, challenging times," Botello said. "Parents feel overwhelmed, frustrated and confused. They have no control over the Internet, drugs, schools or TV."

COPE is a 4-year-old Contra Costa County-funded program that provides counseling and more than 38 Positive Parenting Program classes throughout the county.

Its mission is to "prevent child abuse and strengthen family relationships by providing support services that empower parents, encourage healthy relationships and cultivate nurturing families."

"It is not just parents. We serve single fathers, divorced fathers, parents of special needs children, adoptive parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents who are raising children," Botello said.

District IV Supervisor Karen Mitchoff said, "COPE family support center works with families at a critical time before neglect or even violence happens. This is extremely important not only to families that they directly serve, but also our community as a whole. Without their services, our community would be a more dangerous and unhealthy place."

COPE also partners with the Care Parent Network, a nonprofit resource center for families with children who have learning disabilities and special needs.


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CPN's family support coordinator Louise Snyder said, "Children with learning disabilities don't understand boundaries the way a typical child would."

"A mother who was really struggling attended COPE's 10-week class and said that it was 'life changing.' They feel more competent and capable after the classes," said Snyder at the Nov. 16 opening of COPE's Concord facility on Diamond Boulevard.

Botello attributes much of COPE's success to its partnerships and board members.

Sharon Bernhus, SHELTER Inc. residential services director said, "People come to us in high crisis situations. PPP helps them have some structure and feel empowered as parents, when they don't have housing or employment. They are more confident going into a job interview or a training program. It is really a wonderful partnership."

COPE is receiving more calls from higher-income families in the Highway 24 corridor, Botello said. "They (parents) are overwhelmed with finances. It affects their confidence and self-esteem."

Bernhus added that, "It has been so challenging the in the last four years. People don't think of Contra Costa as a place where families are homeless, but some are."

She said, "Our capacity is always stretched to the limit. We had more people with degrees and a work history coming in. Their situation is getting better now. Young people who have just graduated are having a more difficult time now."

Representatives of area legislators were at the opening, including, Emlyn Struthers, representing state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, and Mark Herbert, speaking for Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla. Also Ruth Fernandez, Contra Costa County manager of educational services, was in attendance.

Contact Dana Guzzetti at dguzzetti10@gmail.com or call 925-202-9292.

parenting resource
WHAT: Nonprofit COPE Family Support Center
WHERE: 2280 Diamond Blvd., Suite 460, Concord
INFORMATION: www.copefamilysupport.org; call 925-689-5811