SAN ANTONIO – Guardian House, a nonprofit that has helped divorced families for 20 years, received a grant that will allow the organization to do even more.
The Nancy Smith Hurd Foundation donated $200,000 that became available in January, and since then the San Antonio resource has bolstered its free parenting classes.
The plan is to teach 500 families this year, more than double the number of parents Guardian House taught in 2016. Guardian House executive director Shannon White said there is a great need.
"After they're finished, they refer other people to come to us," White said.
Rolando Briones, who is the father of three children, said the experience was eye-opening.
"You realize that other parents have the same issues you're having and how did they deal with it. So I learned just as much from the rest of the class as I did the coursework," Briones said.
"At first, it's very hard to do and it's scary. But once you start coming, you start getting very comfortable, and it's actually a very good learning experience as well," said Crystal Coriea, who graduated from the course.
Coriea recommends the course to anyone who is thinking of signing up.
In 2016, Guardian House, when all of its programs are counted, served 1,000 children and 800 parents.
The divorce rate in Bexar County is about 50 percent. White said of those failed marriages, a third are high-conflict relationships, which include attributes such as domestic violence and stalking.
In these situations, children can become victims.
"Kids are caught in the middle of both mom and dad. It can tear them apart," White said.
Guardian House also offers a safe place for divorced or estranged parents to meet.
Often parents are ordered by the court to only see their children under direct supervision. Two of the seven meeting rooms at Guardian House have a privacy window, so staff can watch parents interact with their children but still give family members a sense of intimacy.
It's not free, but the services are on a sliding scale based on income and and are the cheapest option in town, White said.
The staff also uses a holistic approach, taking notes on visits and then offering guidance on how the mother or father is doing.
"Some of these kids have never seen that parent. This is the first time. Five years old, never been a part of their lives. So they need some kind of, you know, they just don't have those skills," office manager Valerie Rodriguez said.
To sign up for a class or to learn about the services Guardian House offers, go to the organization's website at http://guardianhouse.org/, or call 210-733-3349.
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