|Youths in an Edu-Futuro program write down their dreams and goals. Edu-Futuro obscured their faces to protect their identity.|
Strengthening Families is presented in Spanish by an organization based in Arlington called Edu-Futuro. Classes for parents and youths age 10-14 started last week at the Annandale United Methodist Church’s (AUMC) building on Heritage Drive in Annandale next to Heritage Mall.
The parents and youths meet separately during the first part of each session then come together for a group activity, says Maria del Carmen, parent support specialist at Edu-Futuro. The classes meet Monday evenings for seven sessions. Dinner and childcare are included.
Each class covers a different topic, such as dealing with peer pressure, goal setting, how to show love and affection, how to hold a family meeting, or how to talk about difficult topics.
It’s not easy to talk to young teens, so Edu-Futuro uses activities to get them engaged, del Carmen says. During the half-hour when the whole group is together, families might learn a new card game, for example or work on a project, such as drawing a “treasure tree” on a poster and writing down the values they consider important.
At the first class, the eight families who participated had children at Braddock or Woodburn elementary schools or Poe Middle School.
Edu-Futuro works with parent liaisons at local schools to recommend families that would benefit from the program. Staff at the Vistas of Annandale also helped recruit families.
Some parents who are in the early stages of learning English have difficulty communicating with teenagers who are way ahead and are forgetting Spanish, del Carmen says. Edu-Futuro urges parents to get their children more involved in school and community activities, because when kids are by themselves, they are more vulnerable to gang recruitment.
Another Edu-Futuro program, called Participa, is aimed at helping parents understand the school system and encouraging them to become active participants in their children’s education. Sessions were held at Annandale Terrace Elementary School and at the Heritage Building for residents of Fairmont Gardens and for parents with children at Woodburn Elementary School.
Edu-Futuro also hosted a three-session family reunification program in June at the AUM outpost on Heritage Drive and at other places in Northern Virginia. That program is for parents who had been separated from their children; in some cases, parents left their children behind when they immigrated to the United States and brought them here years later.
More reunification classes will be offered, as there is a growing need to help people adjust after being caught up in the family separation policy of the Trump Administration. Edu-Futuro is also training parent liaisons and school social workers in Arlington to work with students who have been separated from their parents.
At one family reunification session in June in Alexandria, del Carmen says, there was a family who was torn apart, when the mother, an asylum seeker, was detained by the government for three months. The children, ages 4 and 7, were placed in foster homes in separate states. When the family was finally reunited at their grandmother’s home, the children were “totally traumatized” and feared their mother would “abandon” them again.
“We are getting ready for what’s coming,” del Carmen says. “We’re going to see more of this.”