Caregiver Empowerment Groups: That they would know their own power, collectively and individually
by Sara Beth Stoltzfus
My name is Sara Beth Stoltzfus and I am a case manager at MCH Family Outreach. At MCH Family Outreach, we provide support to families through in-home case management services, parent education and caregiver empowerment groups. Until recently, what we now call our Caregiver Empowerment Groups were only open to relative caregivers (grandparents raising grandchildren, aunts raising nieces and nephews, etc.) I have been facilitating these support groups for almost three years now and as we transition to a new schedule and more inclusive format (all caregivers of kiddos are welcome!), I wanted to reflect on why these groups are so important.
I googled the definition of support, because support is one of the key elements of the groups. Some definitions I found were “to bear all or part of the weight of; hold up,” “give approval, comfort, or encouragement to” and “to be actively interested in and concerned for the success of.”
After reading these definitions, I thought to myself, “Yes! Exactly! This is already happening in our groups.” The caregivers who attend our groups each month are absolutely giving comfort and encouragement to each other. And while no one person is holding all of the weight of another person in the group, all in the group are bearing witness to each other’s joy, struggles and the general craziness of parenthood, listening and holding the space for one another.
I am always delighted when after the hour-long group is done, I see two grandparents exchanging phone numbers to meet up. And while I am bound to confidentiality, I think it is great when a caregiver asks me how someone is doing who has not attended the group in a while. I have witnessed a true concern for the success of others in the group.
One definition of empowerment as defined by Wikipedia is “the capacity of individuals, groups and/or communities to take control of their circumstances, exercise power and achieve their own goals, and the process by which, individually and collectively, they are able to help themselves and others to maximize the quality of their lives.”
I love this definition. When caregivers of children get together to support one another, ultimately the goal is to maximize the quality of their own lives and their children’s lives, individually and collectively. Increasing a caregiver’s power and more importantly, knowledge of their power, is key. A mother who thought she was failing in so many ways will realize that there are plenty of moms who think they are failing too. A grandmother who thought there was no hope for her child with sensory needs realizes there are many other grandmothers with similar kiddos and that there are resources out there for her grandchild. With this new knowledge, she will realize, I CAN do this. I am able to support my child.
In a very independent society, caregivers need support as they also need to support others. Caregivers need a place for vulnerability and tears as well as joy and laughter. Through this mutual support, we hope that caregivers will be empowered, becoming stronger and more confident, in control of their lives.
Our hope is that they would know their own power to create beautiful, connected, empowered children.
We invite anyone caring for a child to come to a Caregiver Empowerment Group. Every new voice in the group is impactful and your story can empower another caregiver.
Caregiver Empowerment Groups will be held on the 2nd Tuesday of September, October and November, one group in the morning from 11am-12pm and one in the evening from 6pm-7pm. The groups will be located at MCH Family Outreach at 1111 Herring Avenue Waco, Texas 76708. Call 254-750-1263 for more information!
This Act Locally Waco blog post was written by Sara Beth Stoltzfus. Sara Beth is a Social Worker at MCH Family Outreach through the Methodist Children’s Home. Sara Beth is originally from Pennsylvania but has been living in Texas for more than 6 years, 4 of which have been spent in Waco. Sara Beth enjoys spending time with her husband, James, and dog, Bud, as well as with her church community, Hope Fellowship. Sara Beth also enjoys participating in social justice work with other Wacoans.
The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected] for more information.