Forty years ago the Junior League of Fort Worth, in partnership with the Sid W. Richardson Foundation and the state of Texas, sponsored a task force to look at the issue of child abuse in Fort Worth. The end result was the establish-ment of The Parenting Guidance Center.
The organization, now called The Parenting Center, believes that empowering families with knowledge and skills can help them to develop and maintain healthy lives. The nonprofit is dedicated to preventing child abuse and ne-glect and provides family life skills and advice through education services and counseling.
In its first month of operation, the agency counseled four clients. In 2014, it provided classes and information covering more than 50 topics to 7,352 people; family life education to 4,959 students in the Fort Worth and Arlington independent school districts; and counseling and therapy to 1,348 children and adults. In all, 15,646 people were served last year.
“I feel most proud of the fact that we provide quality services and care about the people we serve on a daily basis. And we have stayed true to our mission – providing family members and professionals with resources, tools and services to build successful families,” said Executive Director Barbara Lamsens.
Lamsens, who has 35 years of nonprofit ser-vice to the Fort Worth area, came aboard the agency in 1998, guiding it through more than half of its history.
“During the last 20 years we have weath-ered and survived several storms, such as the aftermath of 9/11 and the 2008 recession. Those were tough times when some nonprofits didn’t make it. Not only did we survive, but we are healthy and strong today,” she said. “The Parenting Center is at a great place right now and the future looks bright. The Parenting Cen-ter has a tremendous board of directors and excellent staff. The agency has grown over the years and I think it is currently on the cusp of more growth.”
Lamsens is set to retire on Sept. 30. She will be honored by Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price at the organization’s inaugural fundraising gala on Sept. 17. Junior League of Fort Worth, the cen-ter’s founding agency, also will be honored for its ongoing support of The Parenting Center.
After a comprehensive search by board members, staff and key volunteers, The Parent-ing Center selected Paul Gravley, former chief development officer at Arlington-based Helping Restore Ability, to succeed Lamsens.
“I am excited about Paul Gravley coming in as the new executive director,” she said.
“He has the passion and vision necessary for this organization and he appears to have good leadership ability.”
A native Texan, Gravley has spent more than 16 years in the nonprofit sector in a variety of leadership positions. He earned his undergraduate degree in political science from Southwestern University and his mas-ters of divinity from Southern Methodist Uni-versity (Perkins School of Theology) in 2006. An accomplished public speaker, Gravley has been featured across the country on top-ics from leadership development to public communication.
Gravley and his wife, Stephanie, a fourth-grade teacher, met in the ninth grade at Grape-vine Junior High School. He coached their oldest son, Luke, 7, in youth baseball and now coaches younger son Noah.
“It’s pure joy to watch a 4-year-old hit a baseball off the tee and run around the bases,” he said.
Gravley recently spoke to Fort Worth Busi-ness about the new post he will assume Oct. 1.
What drew you to the nonprofit field?
I believe, deep down, that we are all called to serve others. This is what draws me to the nonprofit field – a place where really good, important and innovative work is being done to make our world a better place. Making a lasting contribution for a better world is the driving factor in my life, and I believe that starts with building stronger families. The data are quite clear that better familial relationships means a better life for children and families alike. It means less child abuse. It means better personal skills. It means a higher edu-cational attainment. In other words, stronger families build stronger communities.
I also have a per-sonal reason. I’m a dad and a husband, and those two things are the most impor-tant things in my life. That was not always the case. I had put my
focus elsewhere, on work, on me. I wish I had known about The Parenting Center before be-cause a refocus might not have been needed. The exact kind of support that The Parenting Center provides – counseling, family educa-tion, relationship enrichment – is a big reason why my family and I are in a much better place today. I want other families to experience the kind of transformation that my family has expe-rienced. The Parenting Center is a place where that kind of transformation happens.
Describe your leadership style.
I believe in collaboration, so I lead with the focus on working together with those involved to make the best possible decision with the information that we have gathered. If Tarrant County is going to be a better place then it’s going to take many smart, talented, dedicated people devoting time and resources to collab-oratively solve systemic issues. The Parenting Center is prominent in many of these collaborations, rightfully so. The staff and volunteers that make up The Parenting Center are the fore-most experts in their fields.
What goals do you have for the center?
My ultimate goal for The Parenting Cen-ter – as has been the goal of the center for many years before me – is to eradicate child abuse. We begin close to home here in Tarrant County, but my hope is that across Texas, the United States and the world that families and professionals have the tools that they need to have healthy relation-ships where abuse is not an option.
What are the greatest challenges The Parent-ing Center faces in the coming year and how will you overcome them?
The world is chang-ing quickly. There is no cookie-cutter family. The rise of intergenerational households (especiallywhere grandparents raise grandchildren) is just one example of the change in family relationships. The greatest challenge for The Parenting Center will be finding our voice as a thought leader and as an advocate for those who are often marginalized because they do not fit into a ‘normal’ category.
Of course, to do this important work, it re-quires the funding to do so. We are so thankful for the donors that have made the work of The Parenting Center possible for the past 40 years. It will require that kind of dedication and more to realize our goal of building stronger families.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
My debate coach in high school once told me that paying attention to the bigger picture is more important than winning each individual argument. I think that’s a good piece of advice in any setting. It’s the big picture that matters. All the individual things that make up the big picture are vitally important, but you can’t lose sight of the larger goal.
A Brief History of The Parenting Center
1974 – The Parenting Guidance Center (PGC) is formed. Initial funding comes from the Sid W. Richardson Foundation, Tarrant County Mental Health/Mental Retardation Services and the Junior League of Fort Worth. Beverly Smith Snyder is the first president.
1975 – PGC opens on Dec. 5. The first executive director is Ewing Cooley.
1976 – Counseling is provided to 350 families. Dorothy St. John becomes executive director.
1980 – Land is purchased for a new facility with grants from the Amon G. Carter Foundation and the National Council of Jewish Women.
1983 – Construction begins on the new facility. United Way sponsors new services in Arlington.
1984 – TPC moves into its new building at 2928 W. Fifth St.
1985 – Arlington office opens through grants from Capital Cities Foundation, Junior League of Arlington, Arlington Citizen-Journal and Stars for Children.
1991 – Dorothy St. John retires; Ann Alsbury hired as executive director.
1998 – Barbara Lamsens, clinical program director, hired as executive director.
2004 - Local nonprofit The Bridge contracts with TPC to provide parenting education and marketing to its clients. (The contract ends in 2006 when The Bridge merges with ACH Child and Family Services.) Children in the Middle, a local nonprofit, merges with TPC to form the Family Transitions program.
2008 – Lamsens receives the Non Profit Executive Women’s Advocacy Award presented by Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas.
2013 - The Red Tricycle awards TPC the 2013 Most Awesome Parent Education Programs Award. The Texas Association for Parenting Education at the University of North Texas names TPC as winner of the 2013 Best Practices Award.
2014 – TPC selected to be part of Parent Engagement Collaborative by the Miles, Morris and Rainwater foundations.
Child Abuse Statistics
Tarrant County led the state in confirmed cases of child abuse in 2014, with 6,097 victims and 11 related fatalities, the fourth highest in Texas.
79 percent of confirmed perpetrators were parents.
40.6 percent of perpetrators were between the ages of 26 and 35.
22.7 percent of victims were between the ages of 1 and 3.
51.1 percent of perpetrators were female.
Source: Texas Department of Family and Protective Services Date Book 2014
THE PARENTING CENTER
2928 W. Fifth St.
Fort Worth 76107