Alone with two young children in a foreign country and an unfamiliar language is stressful for anyone, even if she is focused on establishing residency so her husband can join her. Add in a pregnancy, and it is enough to test any marriage.
That was the situation for Nada Abbas when she arrived in the United States from Abu Dhabi in the spring of 2012. She is originally from Sudan. Her husband, who remained behind, was a truck driver and driving instructor credentialed in his home country.
“When I came here, I didn’t know anybody in America,” she said recently. “I needed someone to help me. I needed to speak English very well.”
She began attending The Parenting Center’s eight-hour marriage class. That led to English classes twice a week for her and her older children. And when her husband arrived three months later, she brought him into the program as well. There are three children in the family — two boys aged 9 and 5 and an 8-month-old girl.
The Parenting Center opened in 1975, the result of a task force of the Junior League of Fort Worth to study child abuse and neglect. Every year, the agency serves between 14,000 and 18,000 individuals across Tarrant County and the surrounding area.
“I know what I want,” Abbas said. “I want to care for my family.”
The Parenting Center offers a wide variety of classes and programs including dealing with co-parenting; individual, family and couples’ counseling; a free, confidential Parenting Advice Line telephone line for concerned parents or caregivers with questions about raising children; and an in-school program to help teens develop the tools to make responsible choices and prepare for the future.
“We have always been about preventing child abuse and providing intervention when it has already occurred, but we have widened our net over the years in terms of how we go about it,” said Barbara Lamsens, the executive director. “We realized that it is usually a family issue and not just a parent’s problem or a child’s problem. Therefore, we provide services for multiple family issues. For example, we know that when the parents’ relationship is healthy and strong, the children are more likely to be free from abuse.”
One of the programs is the Empowering Families Project, designed to increase family self-sufficiency, marital and relationship stability and satisfaction, and earning power and employment as part of an overall strategy to promote healthy marriage.
As a result of the family’s participation in that program and with assistance from staff members, Gusai Abbas was able to receive commercial driver's license training and find work after he entered the United States.
“They taught how to take a bus because I didn’t have a car,” Nada Abbas said. “They taught me how to talk with people, how to talk to my husband and with my kids.”
She has since brought two friends into the program. And the family has recently been able to buy a car.