by Judge Michael “Mickey” Foellger
Our program grows and gets better at its purpose of “guiding kids” by improving our ability to “support families” through our new Parent/Caregiver Support Group. The pilot program, which started last fall, offers two on-site meetings per month during regular youth program hours. Mentoring Plus is most pleased to welcome our professional facilitator, Thomas Cox MS, TM, who is the director of Families Matter, Inc., a counseling service based in Florence, Kentucky. Initial feedback from parents has been powerful and positive: “they feel heard” and say they have “someone to listen to them who understands what they’re going through,” says Program Director Robin Anderson.
Families Matter offers family mediation at its facility in Florence, and facilitates co-parenting custody agreements as well as alcohol and substance abuse counseling, and Tom Cox has been providing these services for 30 years. He calls the program Parental Impact, and brings his expertise to our Newport location on the third Monday and Thursday of every month.
Parent(s), custodians, or guardians of any of our kids in the program may participate, and Mentoring Plus made easy access a top priority. Like every other service at Mentoring Plus, the program is free for all families, no matter what. Volunteers provide free child care (for the younger siblings), as well as free meals, eliminating some major barriers that would usually make it too difficult for families to attend. And we even provide transportation to and from the program with our (recently donated) beautiful van. Their younger children stay busy in the arts and crafts room, or even the gymnasium, with the undivided attention of childcare volunteers. Volunteer Coordinator Laura Gordon explains that “this Support Group seems to be very successful at breaking down barriers within the family unit which allows for a healthy healing process”.
Mr. Cox takes a very practical approach, directly addressing concerns, issues and questions that parents have when it comes to raising teenagers, and focuses on helping them to solve the problems that arise. “We don’t want preaching or arguing, and try to establish conversations between the kids and their custodians about the impact of the decisions kids make, such as drugs and alcohol,” says Tom. There is an entertainment aspect to Tom Cox’s program. He is also an award-winning comedian, who has appeared at the Funny Bone and other venues.
“This isn’t a school program or an intensive therapy session, it’s a comedy show that also deals with some very serious real life issues, in a laid-back atmosphere,” says Mr. Cox. “Parents or guardians can come in with questions, and leave with some answers and direction.”
Quite frankly, Parental Impact is a perfect match for Mentoring Plus and greatly enhances our ability to strengthen our community by guiding our teens to become healthy and productive members of our community.