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Spanish-speaking Community Celebrates First Parenting Program

Certificate Ceremonies were held for 105 participants in the St. Thomas-St. John district on Sept. 22, at the Mount Zion Church of God and on Sept. 23 at the Iglesia de Dios Sol De Justicia on St. Croix for parents who completed the 6-week parenting class for the Hispanic Community initiated by the Access and Visitation Program (AVP) of the V.I. Department of Justice Paternity and Child Support Division, V.I. Attorney General Ariel Smith announced in a press release Monday.

Parents on St. Thomas complete 6-week parenting program. (Photo courtesy of DOJ)

Furthering its commitment to fund services that aim to meet the needs of all families in the community, the AVP team partnered with Sandra Garcon Degerville Ministries, LLC, Bishop Earl Harrison- Mount Zion Church of God, the Iglesia de Dios Rosa de Saron- St. Thomas, Iglesia de Dios Estrella de La Manana- St. John, and the Iglesia De Dios Sol de Justicia on St. Croix, according to the press release.

Parenting program facilitator Dr. Sandra Garcon, who created the Healthy Parental Relationship Program, said that due to the success of the implementation of the same program for the Haitian community last year, they followed through with plans to serve the Hispanic communities of St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix. Last year, the AVP team partnered with the First Haitian Baptist Church of St. Thomas to offer a 12-week virtual program for over 50 participants, the press release stated.

Parents on St. Croix complete 6-week parenting program. (Photo courtesy of DOJ)

“This is either a 6-week intensive or a 12-week virtual group designed to create healthy parental relationships to improve the safety and well-being of children by teaching effective ways to co-parent and increase dad ‘s involvement in raising their children,” said Garcon.

Some of the topics discussed were:

  • Setting the atmosphere for effective co-parenting.
  • The mother’s role in promoting a healthy father-child relationship.
  • The cost of Dad‘s absence.
  • Conflict resolution and developing mutual respect.
  • Setting mutual disciplines and structures.

“I respect the courage, wisdom, and foresight of the parents who participated in this program. Better parents create well-rounded citizens who are tolerant and respectful of others regardless of race, sex, age, national origin, sexual orientation, or ethnicity. Parenting programs help to build strong families that in turn lead to a strong community,” said AG Smith.

“The first Spanish Parenting Class for 105 participants and support services for eighteen youths is historic in our agency and the US Virgin Islands. We have received overwhelming responses from the attendees. We are grateful to everyone who contributed to the success of the program, including the AVP and the entire DOJ Team, Dr. Sandra Garcon, the Office of the Governor, community leaders, participants, and the community for the support of our families in the USVI,” said Sharon Jackson-McDonald, access visitation administrator.

During the ceremony, some of the parents shared their testimony with the assistance of translators. Remarks during the St. Thomas ceremony were given by AG Ariel Smith, President of Sandra Garcon Degerville Ministries, LLC- Sandra Garcon, CEO Inspire V.I. LLC- Cira Burke, Pastor of the Iglesia de Dios Rosa de Saron- Roberto de Jesus Moreno and guest speaker Sen. Milton Potter. On St. Croix, remarks were shared by guest speaker Sen. Marise C. James, Sammuel Sannes representing Gov. Albert Bryan, BOC Grant Manager Peter Abrahams- Representing BOC Director Wynnie Testamark, Sen. Novelle E. Francis Jr., DOJ Deputy AG- William A. Appleton, Esq., Iglesia De Dios Sol de Justicia- Pastor Israel Cruz Taylor and First Lady Milda Taylor, the release stated.

The AVP is a federally funded program under Title IV Section D of the Social Security Act. Each year, the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement provides mandatory grant funding to states and territories to operate the Access and Visitation Program. The program aims to fund services that help noncustodial parents spend more time with their children and strengthen parental and family relationships, it said.

For more information on the initiative, call the Access and Visitation Program, DOJ Paternity and Child Support Division at 340-775-3070 on St. Thomas and St. Croix at 340-778-5958. You can also email the team at viaccess@vi.gov.

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