Waynette reviews materials during a parenting class at Jessie’s Place

Waynette organizes and facilitates a 10-week Nurturing Parenting program at Jessie’s Place on behalf of Children’s of Alabama’s Behavioral Health Center and has spearheaded the partnership for nearly two years as part of the Center’s community outreach initiative.

The focus of the program, which is currently offered four times per year at the shelter, is to better help equip parents to understand child development and to prevent, or change, mindsets that can manifest as harmful parenting over time.

Because the staff at Jessie’s Place has found the content of the Nurturing Parenting program so beneficial, all clients are required to complete the course, even if they don’t have children since daily interaction at the shelter brings everyone into close interaction with children of various ages.

“Communication and understanding feelings allow [individuals] to set appropriate expectations for children,” Waynette said. “We also emphasize not comparing one child to another. For example, ‘my child and that child are the same age, why aren’t they doing similar things?’ So, we’re trying to instill in them that many of these [stages] aren’t concrete.”

The classes aren’t passive in nature and require attendees to participate by engaging in discussions and completing homework assignments.

Leah laughs with one of the clients during a class conversation

“It’s a well-rounded program, but it’s not just about teaching, it’s also a support group for parents,” Leah, one of the program’s facilitators, added. “They can talk about their experiences and ask for advice not just from the teachers, but the other women in the room.”

The beauty of the open-group format is that it allows anyone to join the curriculum at any time. This is especially beneficial since clients at Jessie’s Place may enter the shelter or graduate from the facility’s overall program during the course of the Parenting class offerings.

Waynette said that the most rewarding thing about the class has been getting feedback from the women who’ve tried to implement the strategies.

“Some have told me that what we covered worked,” she said. “Sometimes they’ll say, ‘I tried this, but it didn’t work, so what can I do better, or differently?’ It’s good to know that they are practicing the skills.”

The duo encourages volunteers and other organizations to think about serving at shelters like Jessie’s Place with a scope that goes beyond traditional meal preparation or simply dropping off donations.

“At the end of the day, it’s about the ladies,” Leah said. “It’s about being a source and a resource for them. Whatever tool or skill you have that you can offer these ladies, bring it on.”

Waynette is the program coordinator at Children’s Behavioral Health Ireland Center. Leah rotates into service at Jessie’s Place along with co-facilitators Katrina, Monica, and James.

To find out more about volunteering at any of our shelters, contact Andrea at andrea@jimmiehalemission.com.