Working to keep families together

The staff of the Starting Points Resource Center held an open house for the public on Monday to show what classes and resources they had available.

PRINCETON — A new place where children, parents and guardians can visit each other and learn how to be a family hosted an open house Monday.

Staff with the new Starting Points Family Resource Center greeted visitors arriving at 163 Shaker Lane with a temperature check and hot dogs as well as offers to tour the facility. The center works with the nearby Child Protect Center and shares the same executive director, Starting Points Manager Tonya Milan said.

“The difference between us and Child Protect is that we’re going to be offering visitation services, and that’s for children who have been removed or are in a custody arrangement and those visits have been ordered. We also have an emergency food bank and clothing closet, and that’s open to the community. That’s a service we can apply to anybody. It can be any stranger off the street. There’s no financial requirement.”

Starting Points provides prevention services such as the Body Safety Program in Mercer County Schools.

“That’s the program that teaches children to know when they’ve been abused: physical, emotional and sexual abuse,” Milan said. “They learn what that is and then report it.”

Inside, the center has a kitchen and dining area where visiting parents and guardians can cook for their children in a home setting. A washer and drier lets families do laundry, too. This home-like setting gets the adults used to cooking and cleaning while children area present, Milan stated.

There are two visitation rooms where observers can watch the interactions between adults and children. The rooms help adults who may not have parenting skills adjust to having children in a home setting.

Milan walked outside to the spacious back yard and pointed out a small community garden being used to grow vegetables.

“We plan to expand this over time,” she said. “We plan on doing it every year. This is just to get us started.”

Child Protect and Starting Points Family Resource Center provide different services, so they have their own locations, Director LaDena Morgan said. The goal of Starting Points is to provide adults with the skills they need “to be a great parent.”

“We’re going to have supervised visitation. We want it to be home-like and simulate a home setting, and get them (children and adults) into a routine. This is how it’s going to be in your home.”

People who want to contact Starting Points about services or to donate food and clothing can call 681-282-5169.

Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com

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