A Day at the Parent Child Center of Tulsa

Student Intern

HELPING HANDS: GTR Newspapers Student Intern Alaiszia Fobbs, left, sits with Desiree Doherty, executive director of the Parent Child Center of Tulsa. PCC offers services to both children and adults with the focus on preventing and stopping child abuse.

EMILY RAMSEY for GTR Newspapers

Tulsa is home to a number of nonprofit social service organizations that hold the mission to improve the lives of Tulsa residents, including at-risk individuals. One such organization is the Parent Child Center () of Tulsa, which served more than 26,000 Tulsa families in 2012. The nonprofit was created by the 1990 merging of At Risk Parent Child Program, which began in 1974 at Hillcrest Medical Center, and Child Abuse Prevention Services, which was originally named Parents Anonymous when it was created by St. Francis Hospital in 1972.

Greater Tulsa Reporter Intern, Alaiszia Fobbs, a Sociology major at Oklahoma State University, spent a day at PCC’s offices, 1421 S. Boston Ave., and shares some of what she learned.

After waiting in the lobby, with its cheery, open interior and large picture windows, I was initially greeted by Annette Wallace, director and head of client services.

We discussed the demographics of PCC’s clientele: the average age of parents who seek services being in their mid-20s to mid-30s, with traditionally, a higher number of female than male clients. However, regardless of the client’s age, sex or race, the staff of the agency aims to provide a non-judgmental and shame-associated environment, Wallace says.

After speaking with Wallace, the rest of my time at was spent in one-on-one interviews with PCC’s executive director, program managers, coordinators and home-based services officers. I first met with the organization’s Executive Director Desiree Doherty.

While offers services to children up to 12 years old, its most prominent focus is on those from 0-3 years old. “It is during this time in a child’s development that they are the most vulnerable,” Doherty says, “because they can neither run away from their abuser nor tell someone about the abuse or neglect they’re suffering.”

In addition, any child with a parent who was abused during childhood is at a higher risk of abuse themselves. That is the number one risk factor for abuse, she continues.

I next met with Steve Hahn, program manager for Community Educations Services, which is the first of three stages of PCC’s child abuse prevention offerings. Within this first level of prevention are the programs Kids on the Block, Never Shake a Baby and Communities .

Kids on the Block is a children’s puppet show designed to equip young ones with the tools to reach out to an adult in order to stop abuse. The volunteer puppeteers travel to Tulsa-area schools and perform the free shows on topics ranging from bullying and divorce to physical and sexual abuse. Never Shake a Baby is a hospital education program designed to teach new parents about the period of what’s known as purple crying: the first eight weeks of a baby’s life when they cry the most. The goal of the program is to reduce the likelihood that a baby will be shaken during times of high frustration by teaching parents and caregivers soothing skills and how to recognize when they’re frustrated. The most important information to know is that despite the name “Shaken Baby Syndrome,” both toddlers and infants can be harmed, says Hahn.

Next on my journey was a meeting with Ashleigh Kraft, program manager of Therapeutic Services—the third stage of PCC’s child abuse prevention. She explained that its therapeutic services focus on child-parent psychotherapy, with an emphasis on infant mental health. Kraft began the interview with a video that depicted the impact of a neglectful parent on the development of an infant.
The premise behind PCC’s child therapy is to treat both children who are at risk of abuse as well as those who have suffered abuse.

While I took so much more away from my meetings than what I can record here, the most important things I learned are the importance of providing early education in order to prevent abuse before it happens and the organization’s continual need for volunteers, including in its shelter outreach program.

The , in addition to Tulsa’s many other family-focused and youth-outreach organizations, provides at-risk families and individuals an all-encompassing security blanket and, oftentimes, renewed hope.

Updated 09-18-2013

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