New support group geared toward single moms

Published 6:33 am Thursday, August 27, 2009

A free support group in Austin is focusing on giving single mothers and their children a helping hand.

The Michael H. Seibel Family Visitation and Exchange Center will host its first free, eight-session Time Together group Sept. 28 through Nov. 16. About a dozen families will be able to eat a meal together, play games and also break off into groups to discuss the challenges of single parenting.

“The idea is … that we know single parenting takes a lot of energy,” said Maryanne Law, executive director of the Parenting Resource Center, which manages the Seibel Center.

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“Our goal is always to strengthen the parent-child relationship and strengthen community connections,” she said of the PRC.

For the eight consecutive Mondays from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. and a ninth “reunion” night in December, moms and their children — ages 4-11 (grades K-5) — will eat a meal together, sing songs and bond with families in similar situations. Child care will be available for kids 4 and under. During the support group portion, mothers can discuss topics concerning to them.

Law said the group is geared toward what single mothers have been requesting — a free class where they can bring their children and talk about anything ranging from finances to parenting styles.

“It’s their group,” Law said. “These are the kinds of things that are challenging for single parents.”

Although the Seibel Center frequently works with victims of domestic violence, the support group is not geared for those women, nor do participants need to utilize the center’s services; it is open to anyone who is a single mother.

“We’re just really glad to be able to offer something energizing and relaxing,” said Heather Steinkamp, Seibel Center director. “This is a great facility to do it in.”

Funded by the Sheltering Arms Foundation, an Episcopal Diocese organization, Time Together has adapted parts of a former program at Austin High School called Families and Schools Together, held from 2000-2005.

“It’s really a great program,” Law said. “That’s kind of what the support group is going to be replicated (from).”

Transportation will be available if needed. The support group will meet next year as well.

To register for the support group, call the Parenting Resource Center at 437-8330 or visit their office at 301 North Main St. The Seibel Center is located at 105 First St. S.E., across from the post office.

The Seibel Center, which opened in August 2008, has three full-time staff and 11 contracted staff. They have served 42 families with visitations (close to 900 hours) and 25 families with exchanges (400 hours). The center is one of only 13 visitation and exchange centers in the United States funded in part by the Office of Violence Against Women, with a child-friendly focus.

“Our emphasis is on safety and respect,” Steinkamp said.