Executive Director Dee Dee Mize has been with Family TIES of Gainesville since 1994, when she served as a volunteer. If there’s one thing she’s learned in the past 23 years, it’s that families experiencing child abuse come from all walks of life.
“We have clients who are indigent or homeless and clients who are well off,” she says. “Abuse doesn’t know your bank account.”
Formed in 1989, Family TIES of Gainesville works to break the cycle of abuse and neglect in families through parenting and intervention programs that teach adults how to provide a safe and nurturing environment for their children.
“We serve families who wish to improve their parenting skills as well as families who are incarcerated or mandated by DFCS or the court system,” says Mize. Executive director since 2004, she won’t say she’s seen it all, but she’s certainly seen her share.
“We had one case where a mom’s children were taken from her,” says Mize. “The husband was in a drug cartel and had abused their daughter for five years. The mother had been sexually abused as a child, was married at 14 and divorced at 16.”
Such circumstances can seem impossible to overcome, but through family counseling, individual counseling, parenting classes and one-on-one parenting instruction, Family TIES can turn things around.
“They say it takes a village to raise a child,” says Mize. “Sometimes it takes a village to raise an adult, too.”
Parenting classes at Family TIES focus on communication skills, bonding and teaching what a healthy relationship is, not just with children but with partners as well, according to Mize.
“We work on discipline options, teaching parents about time out, taking away toys or privileges,” she says. “We do classes on social media, on proper ways of listening and responding to children, and on dealing with substance abuse issues that lead to neglect.”
Parenting 101 classes are for soon-to-be parents or caregivers or those with children ages 0 to 18.
“We work with families on how to encourage their kids,” says Mize, pointing out statistics that reveal that the average adolescent on a typical day at school and home hears 432 negative statements versus 32 positive. “So they really need more positive reinforcement.”
Programs are offered for teenagers whose parents are enrolled at Family TIES and include a teen group that helps adolescents with coping skills, self-esteem and how to deal with bullying. Parenting classes for Spanish speaking parents are offered, and one-on-one parenting classes are available to families in crisis.
Family TIES of Gainesville works with close to 2,000 families yearly, according to Mize who says parenting classes typically take about six months to complete.
“There’s a lot of work that has to be done to get parents reconnected with their kids,” says Mize. “We try to be methodical as we proceed—and patient. We want to make sure that the information we’re giving will be practiced in the family.”
A recent success story involves a young woman who started Positive Parenting classes in the fall of 2016, completed the program in 2017, and now has an apartment and a good job.
“She’s moving forward—and out of the cycle of drug abuse that’s been in her family,” says Mize. “We teach parents to own the responsibility of their actions. If they can do that, they can teach their children to do that.”