LITTLE FERRY – Families gathered in the Meadowlands Family Success Center on Monday, January 11 for the first Bergen County Council for Young Children (BCCYC) Parent Café of 2016. Participants and their children were welcomed with a warm meal and introduced to an abundance of community resources.
The BCCYC is a grant-funded program run by Care Plus NJ, Inc. (“CarePlus”) Project Coordinator Jenn Loaiza and children and family health and wellness community partners. The Parent Café events held by the BCCYC provide a way for parents and caretakers to come together and begin to address their needs and concerns for raising children in various Bergen County communities.
During the event, the Project Coordinator asked three questions related to the needs and challenges of raising children in the community. Parents and caretakers participated in round table discussions, which also acted as an interactive problem solving experience of identifying the need and connecting resources for immediate satisfaction.
The feedback received during these events is used to improve the programs and services available in the community.
“One participant was a single mother who arrived that evening having very little support or community connection,” explained Jennifer Loaiza. “By the time the event was over she was able to leave with all the information she needed to connect with three different supportive resources that she was eligible for. Those type of moments are really what this program is all about. It is incredibly rewarding to assist these families.”
Participants are asked to form new groups for each question, and a representative from one of the BCCYC community partners is present to scribe each discussion. After all three questions have been answered, each of the scribes share what came up for each group. This allows for the participants to begin to connect over common needs, share successes, and learn about new resources.
Staff from the Meadowlands Family Success Center provided activities and childcare while adult participants engaged in conversation. The BCCYC also provides hot meals catered by Friendship House during these events. Families are encouraged to fill up containers with the remaining food before leaving, often enough to feed their children for another meal or two.
Representatives from CarePlus, The Arc of Bergen and Passaic Counties, the Bergen County Office for Children, the Family Support Organization of Bergen County, the Partnership for Maternal and Child Health of Northern NJ, and The Center for Hope and Safety were present to provide insight and create connections for participants.
“The variety of community partners is not always the same for each Parent Café,” commented Loaiza. “However each representative that has taken part has added an invaluable asset with their understanding of needs in the community and their knowledge of available resources.”
Other community partners that have been involved with the BCCYC include Bergen County Division of Mental Health, Bergen Family Center, Advocates for Children of NJ, CAPE Resource Center – Bergen County Special Services School District, YWCA Bergen County, Special Child Health Services – Early Intervention, Healthy Families – TIP Bergen, Children’s Aid and Family Services – Turrell Child Care Center and Baby Basics, and Englewood Family Success Center – HIPPY.
There are three upcoming Parent Cafés scheduled: February 11th from 6-8 pm at the CarePlus Children and Family Services building in Fair Lawn; February 24th from 5-7 pm at the The Turrell Childcare and Early Learning Center in Paramus; and March 2nd from 6-8 pm at the Bergen Family Center in Englewood. The BCCYC is expecting to schedule four more Parent Cafés through June and will begin to form subcommittees to take participant involvement to the next level.
The group is actively seeking organizations interested in getting involved to expand the network of community partners and continue to create important connections for families. For more information on becoming a community partner, to participate, provide resources, or organize a future Parent Café, contact Jennifer Loaiza by phone at 201-265-8200 ext. 5286, or by email at JenniferLo@CarePlusNJ.org.