Since Voice of Hope set out 37 years ago to minister to the children of West Dallas, we have sought to identify best practices for holistic child care. Parents are a child’s first champion, and the Family and Community Services program was born out of an intention to walk with parents alongside their children.
The goal of engaging families does not come without obstacles. The Search Institute cites practical, behavioral, and institutional barriers to making parents feel welcome to come through an organization’s doors; including time and transportation, loss of privacy, and lack of trust.
But as Mrs. Debbie Solis, Voice of Hope’s Director of Family and Community Services, will tell you, “Ministering to the whole family makes it easier to change lives.” According to the Search Institute, families matter in the rearing of a child, and “educators know that students learn better and are more motivated when their parents are involved and committed to supporting their learning.”
Mrs. Solis is a proud third generation West Dallas resident who connects with parents on a daily basis, adept at relational ministry and raising children in the West Dallas community. Although she grew up in a stable household, “outside of my home I saw a lawless community that was treated like second class citizens,” she shares. “We did not have police officers taking care of my neighborhood when I was a child. I witnessed institutional racism and discrimination in school.” Her experience allows her to better relate to parents, particularly through the Voice of Hope Parenting Class.
The Parenting Class, part of the Family and Community Services program, offers food, encouragement, prayer, Bible study, parenting tips, and assistance. Sponsored by Toyota through the National Center for Families Learning (built to “eradicate poverty through education solutions for families”), Parenting Class is a safe space for children and parents alike. As Starlet, Voice of Hope mother, explains, they discuss “real-life things” in class, including caring for the whole child, understanding a child’s point of view, and Christ-centered parenting.
One lesson that struck a chord for Starlet was about giving your children a bigger vocabulary. If your child is angry, can they tell you what kind of angry? Mad-angry, frustrated-angry, or sad-angry? “It was very eye-opening, and gave me a better sense of how to fix a problem,” Starlet explains. “I can be more mindful of what my child really needs.” She appreciates that Parenting Class offers a set time for her to have dinner and fellowship with her children before class begins.
Parents bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the table, and Mrs. Solis recognizes that it is critical to honor and welcome parents in the building. She overcomes the barriers mentioned above by befriending parents on a personal level, relating to her own experience and even using bilingual communication to include Spanish-speaking adults.
“Having the opportunity to lead Voice of Hope Family and Community Services has been a way to bring healing to my community,” Mrs. Solis express. “Our future is our children, and it is very important that we model Christian character and mentor the parents and children to be successful in their walk with the Lord and their walk in society.” Voice of Hope is humbled by the ongoing and future relationships we have with the parents of West Dallas!