Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Family Help Center Looks for Volunteers to Work with Families

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Family Help Center Looks for Volunteers to Work with Families

Article excerpt

Byline: R. Michael Anderson, Clay County Line staff writer

First Coast Family Center, a non-profit organization in Northeast Florida, is looking for additional volunteers to work with troubled families in Clay County to prevent child abuse and neglect.

The agency already has 61 paid employees, including nine in Clay, and 150 volunteers throughout its region of Duval, Clay, St. Johns and Baker counties. But with a growing population to serve, more volunteers are needed, said Carol Waters, the center's volunteer coordinator.

Volunteers are needed most right now to serve as mentors for children, many of whom come from broken homes, and parent aides to work with the mothers and fathers of children in the program.

"We have about 26 mentors in Clay County. We need an additional 15 to 20 mentors," Waters said. "We always have more kids than we have mentors for."

But the center doesn't just turn rookie volunteers loose on families without helping prepare them for their new responsibilities.

Parent aide volunteers are put through a 12-hour training program, which is something the center recently developed. Some are former victims of child abuse themselves who want to help make a difference in the lives of other children going through similar difficulties, Waters said.

"The parent aide program is the main thrust of our whole organization," she said. "We just haven't had the budget to train people in the past."

The "ideal candidate" for a volunteer position, she said, is a parent who has raised children and knows the difficulties involved. She said all the center asks is that they be willing and able to donate one or two hours a week.

Initially, the time is spent "establishing trust with the families and building a relationship," she said, adding that the goal is to help build strong, healthy families and prevent abuse "before we get children in foster care and abuse situations. …

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