FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) – A nonprofit organization in Missouri says it’ll use lessons learned from protests that followed the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson to help parents address the challenges of trauma.
Parents as Teachers of Missouri is part of a national effort working with parents to promote school readiness and healthy development for children, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. It has scheduled a forum Monday in Ferguson as part of the program’s national conference.
The organization, according to its website, helps professionals “work with parents during the critical early years of their children’s lives, from conception to kindergarten” by scheduling home visits and developing relationship-based curriculum for each family. After lawmakers cut spending for Parents as Teachers and redirected the nonprofit to use the rest of its funds to reach more vulnerable families, the organization decided to look at how it engages people of color and find better ways to partner with parents dealing with stress from poverty, neighborhood violence and inequity.
The August 2014 shooting death of Brown, a black and unarmed 18-year-old, led to months of protests in the St. Louis suburb that grew violent at times and was a catalyst for the national Black Lives Matter movement. Darren Wilson, the white Ferguson officer who shot Brown during a confrontation, was not charged and later resigned.
Parents as Teachers educator Angela Gardner said parents are trying to learn how to talk to their young children about the different issues surrounding the protests, including racism, policing and trauma from looting and tear gas.
“There were also safety concerns,” Gardner said. “Parents were afraid to let their kids walk to the bus stop by themselves.”
Gardner, an African-American, said she also experienced stress since her sons joined the protests.
She added that in the past year, parent educators of the Normandy school district in St. Louis County have been mapping houses on Google to create safety plans for high-crime neighborhoods. Gardner also stays informed about crime in other neighborhoods so she can recognize other parents’ stresses during Parents as Teachers visits.
Chief operating officer of the nonprofit, Cheryle Dyle-Palmer, said it’s important for the organization to lead the nation on dealing with trauma because extreme stress in the household can severely hamper child development. A previous Post-Dispatch report included research saying that childhood trauma can lead to outcomes like depression, heart and kidney disease and other chronic illnesses.
The forum’s participants will get a bus tour of Ferguson and St. Louis to understand the region’s tension and challenges regarding inequity.
Ivette Morales, a program supervisor from Los Angeles’ El Nido Family Centers, said she wanted to learn better ways to empower parents to create positive change in their own neighborhoods.
“We can so relate to Ferguson,” she said, recalling the 1965 Watts Riots and the 1992 rioting in Los Angeles that followed the acquittal of four white officers in the beating of black motorist Rodney King. “We’re trying to get these families to come out to the bigger community and really take back their community.”
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