Promotoras grassroots approach to child abuse prevention

Promotoras serve as community bilingual health advocates

By Jessie Degollado - Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - Traditionally, promotoras in the Hispanic community have been bilingual health advocates from the neighborhoods they serve.

Now ten promotoras are in City Council district 5, working with at-risk families to prevent child abuse and neglect.

Shirley Gonzales, who represents the Westside on City Council, said knowing that her district had one of the highest rates of child abuse and neglect in San Antonio, she convinced her council colleagues to support the promotora concept.

The two-year pilot program received $260,000 from the city’s general fund.

“It’s not like a professional coming in and telling people what to do,” Gonzales said.

Instead, they’re much like Christine Estrada, who said like her client Loving Reynosa, she too was a single teen mom who still lives in the Reynosa’s neighborhood within 78207, the target ZIP code.

The promotoras are being overseen by the Family Service Association.

Julie Wiley, its spokeswoman, said the Family Service Association, founded in 1903, is celebrating its 115th year as the oldest human service nonprofit agency in San Antonio.

Wiley said the promotoras first underwent 160 hours of training.

She said they’ve been taught everything from anger management to how to potty train children.

Wiley said if the families need more one-on-one counseling or other services, “We have those within our own agency. If we don’t, then we’ll refer them elsewhere, and do the follow-up.”

She said the Family Service Association that serves 13 counties has several services ranging from early Head Start to parenting education to behavioral health and financial empowerment.

Besides known risk factors such as poverty and little education contributing to child abuse and neglect, Gonzales said another major concern for many families is not knowing where or how to get the help and support they need.

“It really is a disconnection that the person feels isolated or they feel they haven’t anywhere to go,” Gonzales said. “It’s where these problems start to occur."

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