Strengthening the Family to Break the Cycle of Generational Poverty

Author: Catholic Charities Published:

Life Enrichment Activities now offered at The Mount

Last September, Harbor House at Catholic Charities was unable to serve 121 people seeking domestic violence crisis services because the shelter was at capacity. The growth and expansion offered with the opening of The Mount –  Extended Stay Shelter and Family Enrichment Complex in October, 2015 has cut that number in half.

On November 9, a mother and her three sons, all under the age of six, were the first clients to exit The Mount interim housing to permanent housing.

Now, The Mount has introduced Life Enrichment Activities for domestic violence survivors and homeless families residing there. These family strengthening and interpersonal skill development strategies are designed to break cycles of poverty and move people to economic stability.

One group session focuses on relationships for both adults and children. The five-part workshop for adults was developed by Catholic Charities Educational Services Coordinator, Brian S. Mills, Ph.D., and walks individuals through a series of steps culminating in a clear path to improving relationships, stabilizing emotional health and achieving life goals.

Entitled Stepping Stones to Success, clients learn to recognize strengths and weaknesses in their personalities, gain tips to short-circuit stress and find ways to maintain healthy boundaries, identify conflict and prepare to move forward as a family. While adults meet in session, children gather for structured instruction and play. Children learn age-appropriate anti-bullying techniques, healthy self-esteem and ways to make new friends and get along with teachers and others.

“The two-generation approach is a life changing, long-term strategy for families moving forward together,” said Jenny Foster-Farquhar, Department Director of Family Strengthening Services for the agency. “Families also eat together before beginning their sessions, adding a true sense of unity and common purpose.”

Additional sessions focus on parenting skills for adults and behavior and character development methods for younger participants. Based on Dr. Thomas Phelan's bestselling “1-2-3 Magic”, both groups discover ways to control obnoxious behavior while encouraging good alternatives, keeping anger and physical aggression out of the equation, shut down arguing and limit-testing and dealing with temper tantrums, public outbursts and mealtime issues.

Family strengthening education has been offered for years at Catholic Charities, but the Life Enrichment Activities model was piloted successfully at Harbor House just this year.

“This is a model that intuitively works with our established residential community and is one that takes a community to support for maximum impact,” said Foster-Farquhar.