A Stronger Foundation: Strengthening Families of the Brazos Valley

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By Eric Magana

PARENTINGMADVILLECLASSMany people don’t see the emotional and financial troubles that often end up dividing a home. Strengthening Families of the Brazos Valley, a program through the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension, seeks to provide help to families who are struggling in different areas of their lives. They offer four different kinds of classes that tackle marriage and relationships, successful parenting, finance and money management, and adverse childhood experiences.

These classes and methods are the result of extensive research and studies. “All of our programs are evidence-based,” explains Laurie Naumann, project manager of SFBV.

SFBV’s classes give families the opportunity to escape stigma and improve their lives. Joe McGinty, marketing coordinator for SFBV, says this experience has also helped him gain ideas that have improved his own home life and financial thinking. For McGinty, this program can be for anyone who feels they need help, or for families looking to better their lives at home.

“Just because a family is in this class, that does not mean they are lost or broken,” says McGinty. “They just want to improve.”

One of the issues the classes address is ACEs, or Adverse Childhood Experiences. According to the SFBV website, nearly 64 percent of adults have experienced at least one form of ACEs. These experiences range from physical and sexual abuse to neglect as a child.

LAURIE AT CONFERENCE1130Any kind of adverse event can cause trauma as the child grows older. Some of those issues include constant run-ins with the law, workplace absenteeism, and violence, according to the SFBV website. Other problems include addiction, obesity, sleep disturbances, and depression.

Naumann says people often refuse to see the problem ACEs can create, and through SFBV, they can bring awareness to these issues while helping families learn and grow from their experiences. “These issues can slow down basic growth of the prefrontal cortex with a child who experiences trauma,” she explains.

When someone is faced with stress, a hormone called cortisol is released. Cortisol is the hormone in charge of “fight or flight” and the brain remains in that state if cortisol is active. Increased levels of this stress hormone can lead to reduced cognitive development and may affect memory, concentration, language development, and learning abilities, explains Naumann. This is why the SFBV classes are so important.

By speaking to communities about the impact of adverse events, the Strengthening Families organization is bringing awareness to an often-unnoticed problem. They strive to create a supportive community and help families by teaching parents the essentials of good parenting and communication.

HOLLYHELPSBOYAll the programs work together to build stronger families. The parenting, financial, marriage, and ACEs classes focus on teaching families how to deal with potential problems. The ultimate goal is to strengthen the morale of the families and improve childhood experiences, Naumann says. The parents’ child or children are encouraged to come to the classes with their parents to learn about conflict resolution and to grow together.

Since the programs have been offered, the SFBV has generated positive results and feedback. “We’ve never had a case where someone has said it was useless,” says Naumann. SFBV is one of the few programs reaching out to rural Texas where available resources are lower in numbers than in bigger cities. “I’m extremely fortunate to be a part of this project,” says Naumann.

While some families may be skeptical to try this at first, SFBV offers an environment free of judgment that seeks to help and educate any person or family who wants to improve their lives at home. “In order to perceive a message, you have to participate,” says McGinty.

For more information on ACEs or about registering for a SFBV class, visit families.tamu.edu.

SFBV is part of a grant-funded project through Texas A&M Agrilife Extention that stretches into four other counties surrounding Brazos County. The project is funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Humans Services, Administration for Children and Families.