Families First seminars focus on challenges of parenting

HANCOCK COUNTY — With child abuse cases on the rise in Hancock County, more organizations are stepping up to show families how to recognize warning signs and step in when a child needs help.

Families First, an Indianapolis-based child abuse and neglect prevention organization, will host a free six-week seminar series for parents and caregivers beginning Tuesday and continuing once weekly until March 29 at Greenfield Christian Church, with a goal of educating parents about how to prevent abuse and neglect while confronting the challenges of childcare.

In 2014, there were 65 Hancock County court cases in which a judge identified a child in need of state services because of abuse or neglect; that number jumped to 93 cases in 2015, according to the Indiana Department of Child Services.

The Family First seminars, called Parent Cafes, are parent-led discussions that emphasize identifying ways to make sure children grow up in a healthy, loving environment. Participants, who are not required to attend all six weeks, are invited to share their experiences and learn from one another.

Families First is the third organization that has recently begun efforts in Hancock County to curb child abuse and neglect — Prevent Child Abuse Hancock County and the Hancock County Exchange Club, both established in the county in 2015, also have focused their attention on educating parents and guardians.

Families First provides services to Marion, Hancock and Boone counties, said Audrey Mabe, parent education coordinator with Parents First.

Parents Cafes begin with a shared meal, and parents, guardians or caretakers and their children are welcome to eat together. After dinner, children are checked into child care, and discussions will take place for the rest of the two-hour event.

Parent Cafes aim to not only educate caregivers but encourage them to network with one another and learn about programs for families that are available in the community.

“We wanted to be able to provide the opportunity to engage in peer-to-peer learning, build supports and connect to needed resources to as many families as possible,” Mabe said.

Parent Cafes first began in 2007 in Illinois; the effort has since spread to about 15 states, Mabe said. The first series in Indiana started in Marion County in October, and a second series in that county has begun as well, Mabe said.

Parents First received grant funding to support the Parent Cafe events, including just under $10,000 for two series in Hancock County, Mabe said.

Registration for the Parent Cafes is required. To register, call 317-634-6341, or visit familiesfirstindiana.org/parentcafe.

If you go

Who: Families First of Indiana is hosting a six-night Parent Cafe series for parents and caregivers who want to learn more about how to prevent child abuse and neglect

What: A meal, followed by group discussion; childcare is provided

When: 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays beginning next week, then continuing for five weeks: March 1, March 8, March 15, March 22 and March 29

Where: Greenfield Christian Church, 23 N. East Street

To register: Call 317-634-6341 or visit familiesfirstindiana.org/parentcafe. Registration is required. 

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Rorye Hatcher is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at ​317-477-3211 or rhatcher@greenfieldreporter.com.