Mentoring Can Make the Difference

Some of Fred Rogers’ most well-known advice for young kids is to “look for the helpers” when they feel overwhelmed. And these days, after the turmoil and social disconnection of the last several years, kids can’t have enough helpers to turn to. If you’d like to become a helper in your community, now is the perfect time to start, as TAP is recruiting mentors for our youth programs. Mentoring young people is one of the easiest ways to get involved—and make a big difference.

CAN WE PREVENT VIOLENCE IN OUR COMMUNITY?

The risks can be high for young people coming of age in the current environment. The City of Roanoke Gun Violence Prevention Commission recently published the “Roanoke Youth and Gang Violence Community Assessment – Final Report.” The findings suggest a climate of unease and show a shared sense that violence is rising.

Digging into the assessment is revealing. Although a low number of youth/student respondents indicated they are in gangs, those who are cited social motivations as reasons for joining. Other commonly cited reasons were “to make money,” “for protection,” and “for fun.” As the assessment notes on page nine, “Gang culture for these participants provides both emotional and material fulfillment.” Knowing this, we must envision non-violent ways to offer young people the same kinds of connections for social support, fun activities, and avenues to good jobs.

And the youth themselves said as much. When asked what they thought was the best way to prevent violence and gang activity, their top responses were “more jobs for young people,” “more activities for youth to do after school,” and “free individual counseling at schools or community agencies.” Interestingly, both community members and community leaders cited mentoring as one of their top solutions to reduce gang problems in the community. In fact, it was the most common solution cited after “increased parenting time,” and “more jobs for young people.”

HOW DOES TAP HELP?

Our Housing and Human Services component supports people who have experienced trauma, including many types of violence. Working with trauma survivors, we’ve learned that one-on-one mentoring and group mentoring can be huge assets when people want to change their lives. We know mentoring can’t replace parents or create jobs out of thin air. However, it increases social connections and expands support networks, which can help youth emotionally, developmentally, and professionally. Nicole Ross, TAP’s family mentor coordinator, has worked in the mentoring field since 2011. In her experience, a mentor “can give young people the support they’re lacking” at a critical moment. This is true no matter the focus of the activity.

When asked what makes a good mentor, Ms. Nicole—as the kids call her—is quick to point out that it’s not professional skills or expertise that makes a good mentor. “First thing is a passion for young people—to step into their life and make a difference. You need to be a good listener and have patience,” she says. “But most of all, just having a good spirit.” She says showing up consistently is one of the most important traits a mentor can have.

MAKE THE DIFFERENCE

If you think you might make a good mentor, please consider sharing your time with the community. We’re recruiting group mentors for our summer activities, which range from arts and crafts sessions to STEM activities and beyond.

“If you can commit to spending quality time, and follow through, you’ll make a great mentor,” Ms. Nicole says.

You can make a difference in your community, and in the lives of your young neighbors. We can help you take the next step. To learn more, donate time, or help fund activities, contact Nicole Ross at 540.354.2212 or Nicole.ross@nulltapintohope.org.

Supervised Visitation Helps Kids Grow

Edward is passionate and outspoken about parenting. When he talks about his son, his face brightens and the love he has for his son is clear. There is also an unmistakable determination in how he talks about being a part of his son’s life—something he almost missed out on completely.

Instead, Sabrina’ Place gives parents a chance to show up. What Edward did with that chance was incredible. He used the supervised visitation and safe exchange services Sabrina’s Place offers as a place to start.

Edward’s son was born in 2018, but he and his son’s mother didn’t stay together.

By 2019 their relationship had become strained. She suggested that she would pursue full custody of their child, which could have meant Edward might not see his son again. The two went to court to settle the question of custody and visitation rights. There was, at that point, a very real chance that Edward would be cut out of his son’s life entirely.

The court suggested the option of supervised visitation while the custody process played out. Initially, the court ordered up to 24 hours a year of supervised visitation for Edward and suggested several supervised visitation programs. Sabrina’s Place was the only free program on the list, so Edward called and scheduled his first visit.

Somewhere to Start

Visitation is just the beginning, of course. It’s not the same as having time at home or taking your kid to the park.

It wasn’t as much time as Edward wanted. But, as he says, “It was a start. And Sabrina’s Place laid the foundation to let me go from 24 hours each year to where I am now, having custody every other weekend.”

Sabrina’s Place is, first and foremost, about safety. Edward appreciated that Sabrina’s Place takes some of the pressures off the visits, knowing that visits will be safe and free of any kind of confrontation. Parents don’t even have to negotiate the rules of the visit—the program takes on a lot of the logistical work. Sabrina’s Place allowed Edward to relax and focus on building a healthy relationship with his kid. “It’s the perfect place to start for any parent if you want to be in your kid’s life…it’s also a safe environment to focus on your child,” he says.

Being There and Being Part of Their Life

When asked about parenting in general, Edward is quick to point out two elements that he views as necessary. “First you need to show up,” he says. But he also believes that “you need to play your role—to be a parent.” Looking back at his first few years of fatherhood, he says, “I’m learning your child will always love you if you play your part. They’ll know their Daddy was there.” The national Supervised Visitation Network agrees. They suggest that “unless special circumstances exist, children generally fare best when they have the emotional and financial support and ongoing involvement of both parents.” Edward was ready to play the part fully, and Sabrina’s Place opened the door for him and his son to have that important relationship.

Melody Robinson, Sabrina’s Place Coordinator, says that Edward is a great example of what the program is there to do. She also acknowledges that the court process is complicated. Discouraged parents can stop trying to be part of their kids’ lives. “It was a big mountain Edward had to climb,” she says. “And he did it.”

“You gotta start somewhere,” Edward says. “And you can’t give up. You can’t force families to stay together, but you can put in the effort to be in your kid’s life.” Sabrina’s Place is there to help parents do just that, and take some of the uncertainty out of the process. This way, parents like Edward can focus on the most important part of their lives—their children.

It’s Never Too Late to Start Living

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

In this month, we remember those we lost to domestic violence, and we think of the work we need to do to save the next survivors. For many of people, October is a time to reflect on what’s at stake when people decide to leave violent situations, and all the good that can happen when we provide support to people attempting to leave dangerous relationships. It’s also a great time to remind ourselves that it’s never too late to leave a toxic relationship—and it’s never too late to start living your best life.   

It’s Not Too Late: Making a Change at 70

Lily is now in her 70s. She only recently left her marriage after 53 years. For 35 of those years, she was physically and sexually abused by her husband. Lily’s abuser didn’t want her working, and he let her know it. To him, her being away from his control or even having her own money was a challenge and a threat. He would often show up at her job and simply stare at her, trying whatever he could to provoke a reaction. His constant visits and intimidation eventually caused enough trouble that Lily was fired—she was seen as being unprofessional.

Lily’s abuser would turn every part of her day into an opportunity to exert more power over her. As the violence escalated, Lily knew she had to try something. She pressed charges against him after a particularly violent outburst, but he was able to get the charges reduced. Even after escaping criminal charges, he would threaten and physically intimidate her, withhold food, and even refuse to speak to her—all to reinforce his control over every aspect of her life.

Making the Change a Reality

It was decades in the making, but once Lily felt confident enough to leave, things happened quickly. She contacted TAP Domestic Violence Services (DVS) and within a month she was in a studio apartment of her own. She faced a dizzying list of challenges, from safely getting her belongings from her abuser who was still trying to intimidate her, to needing to find a new bed frame and mattress so she didn’t have to sleep in a recliner. DVS provided many donated items to help turn her new, empty apartment into her home. She now describes her life as “peaceful, not being controlled or living in oppression,” and says she feels “free in spirit.”

Leaving a violent relationship safely and beginning to heal takes a true support network. In Lily’s case, the speed with which she left needed a number of things in place to work. Lily’s bravery and decisiveness were the key ingredients. They were a product of TAP being able to connect her immediately with resources that made that quick transition possible. Donated furniture and household goods were also key: DVS was able to immediately provide furniture. That meant Lily didn’t move into what felt like an empty cell, but a new home.

Making the Difference

DVS staff also worked hard to make sure Lily had a plan. They worked on developing and constantly updating her safety plan, finding a new job, and getting her finances in order. Without that support, these tasks would have seemed impossible. There are so many ways the community can help make the choice to leave safer and less intimidating for survivors. From donated household goods, to volunteer therapists who provide sessions to clients for free, to community fundraisers, the work DVS staff do with survivors depends on the whole community.

Meanwhile, Lily has found that with a little help and the passing of time, life starts to feel normal again. That’s why the staff of TAP Domestic Violence Services come to work every day. They want to be part of that journey. They want to support each step, and witness the strength, growth, determination, and hope that survivors show along the way.

This year, we challenge you to find a way to support survivors of domestic violence and their families—whether it’s through raising awareness, donating money, new or gently used household goods, or connecting people to resources, we hope you’ll join us in trying to make a difference.

If You Need Help

TAP Domestic Violence Services helps those suffering from abuse. If your intimate partner is abusive to you, your children, or someone else in the household, or if someone you know is being abused, we can help with the following:

  • Emergency assistance and emergency transportation
  • Emergency relocation assistance
  • 24/7 Emergency Hotline
  • Crisis intervention
  • Legal advocacy
  • Court preparation and accompaniment
  • Support group
  • Education and outreach programs for the community

Call or text (540) 580‑0775. A crisis advocate is available evenings, nights, weekends, and holidays at the emergency number.

Our daytime telephone number is (540) 283‑4813.

Hearing-impaired persons can contact us using Virginia Relay. Just dial 7-1-1 and give the Virginia Relay Communications Assistant the number you need to reach.

Homebuying in Clifton Forge for a Good Cause

With the housing market continuing to soar to new heights, the cost of purchasing a home has become incredibly daunting. In Clifton Forge, however, TAP has a golden opportunity for first-time homebuyers that won’t last long.


This beautiful three-bedroom home is located within walking distance of Clifton Forge’s beautiful and historic downtown. The newly-renovated property at 421 Keswick Street in Clifton Forge is available for purchase by low- to moderate-income buyers. Recent upgrades include the front and back porches, kitchen, and bathroom plumbing, as well as touch-ups throughout. The property is listed for $87,000.

This is a great opportunity for families looking for a beautiful, safe, and affordable place to call home. Special financing is available through Virginia Housing’s SPARC program, which offers a 1% reduction on interest rates.

Click here to see more of the house.

This property was purchased and renovated using funding provided through the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). Any proceeds from the sale will go right back to DHCD, helping more Virginians find and stay in decent housing.

Free first-time homebuyer class on August 28 in Covington

Monty Bowman of Highlands Realty and Associates will host an open house at the property on Saturday, August 28. The same day, TAP Housing Counseling will host a free first-time homebuyer class. It will take place just down the road at the TAP office (118 S. Lexington Ave., Covington, VA 24426) from noon to 1:00 p.m.

Making the dream of homeownership a reality

Buying a home can seem complicated, or even out of reach for many families. In the current climate of high housing prices and economic uncertainty, it’s hard to know where to start. However, TAP hopes that the first-time homebuyer class, we hope we can help you make a confident choice about whether homeownership is right for you. And because the proceeds will fund future housing supports through DCHD, the sale will help other families.

Whoever purchases the 421 Keswick Street property won’t just be taking part in that same dream—they’ll play a small part in helping someone else live the dream too.

Help Keep Kids Safe with Supervised Visitation

Rising Need

In a time of rising domestic violence rates, we need to give at-risk families safe options. Sabrina’s Place provides secure supervised visitation and safe exchange services. It is one of the safest ways to prevent known abusers from committing violent acts during custody exchanges.

As lockdowns started, domestic violence advocates were on high alert. Experts speculated that survivors and their families may be forced into closer quarters with their abusers. The forced close quarters did lead to rising tensions and potentially deadly results. In October of 2020, WSLS reported, “A rise in domestic violence in the Star City means one nonprofit is working around the clock to provide survivors with a safe place to access resources.

It’s the only supervised visitation center in the area. Sabrina’s Place is a program [run] by Total Action for Progress out of Roanoke. It is a safe haven for families struggling with domestic issues to spend time together.”

Limited Supervised Visitation Services

Since then, the need has continued to rise, with Sabrina’s Place’s wait list growing longer while resources grew thinner. The program’s inability to serve every family in need is more than just a matter of inconvenience. It leaves families vulnerable to abuse.

When families aren’t able to access services at Sabrina’s Place, they have to take risks. They can end up in dangerous situations because of that. They may be have to rely on meeting in public places or in the presence of untrained friends and family to stay safe.

The program needs community support to address the heightened need. Since 2016 when the federal program that funded Sabrina’s Place ended (as reported by WDBJ 7), TAP has conducted annual fundraising events and campaigns to supplement the state and local resources that comprise its budget. In 2020, however, Sabrina’s Place wasn’t able to hold its main annual fundraiser due to the pandemic.

While Sabrina’s Place has done its best to keep costs low, the program simply can’t skimp on safety. It takes a secure facility that has separate parking spots, entrances, and waiting areas for each parent, as well as well-placed locking doors and cameras, trained monitors, and off-duty police to make sure situations don’t develop into violence. These elements work together to create an environment parents and children alike can feel safe in.

What A Local Dollar Can Do

The good news is that if we can raise more funds from the community this year, we can provide more supervised visits and safe exchances to the families who need them. Sabrina’s Place will have the capacity to serve more families—and do so safely. In fact, donations can directly provide extra visits and exchanges on a per-visit basis.

It costs about $202 to provide a visit or exchange safely. If you or your friends, family, church, or workplace can, please consider providing a one-time or recurring donation to help Sabrina’s Place provide additional visits and exchanges.

The stakes are high—investing in the secure facility and trained experts of Sabrina’s Place is one of the best ways to keep otherwise dangerous situations from becoming a grisly headline tomorrow. Can we count on you to help?

To donate, please visit https://tapintohope.org/support-us/donate and don’t forget to write a note that you wish for your donation to support Sabrina’s Place!

TAP RESTORE program

Seizing the Future—One Woman’s Journey to Recovery

Even small dreams can feel out of reach when we grow up without seeing others able to attain them. That dynamic makes recovery from substance addiction seem almost impossible.

Recovery is difficult even at the best of times. For children raised in homes struggling with addiction, a life without substance use—and the possibilities that come with such a life—can seem laughable. For Alisha Smith, her success now would have seemed laughable or even downright strange at one point in her life. As she puts it, “I grew up in a home where addiction was the norm and everyone else was just strange if they didn’t live like us.”

Learning The Hard Way

Alisha had to figure out a great deal for herself from a very young age. “My father left when I was about one year old,” she says. “My mother overdosed and passed away when I was 11.” She says that despite these traumas, she still looked for ways to feel normal and stay upbeat. “I started to cheerlead and that pretty much occupied my mind and body in a positive way,” she says. However, drinking—a common pitfall of teenage life—also became a way for Alisha to occupy her time. “I discovered I liked alcohol at age 16 but didn’t start heavily drinking until I was about 18,” she remembers.

“When I was 16, I drove to Tennessee, where my father was incarcerated,” she says. “He made empty promises that he was coming back to Roanoke. He did, in fact, come back—and brought a whole family with him.” Alisha says that her father eventually “became my party buddy and partner in crime.”

School became less engaging for Alisha. “I stopped trying in school and I lost my spot on the cheerleading squad,” she says. “At age 20, I met the father of my child and started using intravenously. I was in and out of trouble, and locked up in jails for about four years, off and on.”

The Road to Recovery Isn’t a Straight Line

It was during one of these stays in jail that Alisha began to plan for a life without substance use. “When I was released this time, I knew I wanted to find recovery,” she says. She remembers that, at the time, “My daughter was with my cousin and I wanted her back.” That was a powerful motivator. “I did stay clean for almost two years but relapsed on alcohol,” she says.

She remembers that first relapse well. “I relapsed on alcohol on a Sunday and that Friday I caught a gun charge because the guy I was dating at the time brought it along, shot it near my face, before he passed out drunk. I moved the gun for safety reasons but it was still in the possession of a felon—myself,” she recalls.

Alisha says that it felt like she “hit an all-time low…and I was back using for a year and a half.” She says that from that moment, things continued to spiral downward. “In that year and a half, I overdosed multiple times. I finally violated my probation and they sent me to Botetourt Jail,” she says. With her life reaching a critical moment, she once again made the decision to take back control and make big changes.

“I was in there for three months but it felt like an eternity,” she says. “In that time, it took me over a month to detox and feel like a human being again and then I was able to connect with my friends from Narcotics Anonymous.”

Making the Change Stick For Good

Staying clean, however, was going to take grit and determination because life still wasn’t done throwing challenges at Alisha. “When I was released, I decided I needed to swallow my pride and accept any help that came my way,” she says.

“I was still working this whole time to see my daughter and in December of 2019 they terminated my rights and awarded my cousin the right to adopt her. I had over a year clean and that didn’t matter.”

Despite the disappointment, this was a huge moment of triumph for Alisha’s recovery. She recalls feeling “completely defeated,” but she stayed strong and didn’t use. “Instead,” she says, “I got stronger.” She then heard about the TAP RESTORE program, which helps women in recovery to build skills and supports them as they pursue new employment opportunities or careers.

Turning the Corner

As Alisha got to know the program staff, she knew right away that she could use the tools the program had provided to keep building on her momentum. “I met with [RESTORE case manager] Kimberly once and we talked and I knew right then that the program could benefit me and that she truly wanted to help,” she recalls. The more Alisha shared about her life experiences, the better the program staff were able to customize the program tools. She told Kimberly about her dream of working in a recovery environment and Kimberly connected her to a local and free Peer Recovery Specialist training. “Throughout that training, which was two weeks long, Kimberly bought supplies for my classes. She gave me gift cards for gas to get to whatever job I was working. The program gave me a gift card for clothes to start new jobs. I wouldn’t have gotten through those hard times without that help.”

Building Blocks of Success

Alisha was able to translate that help and that early momentum into continued success in recovery and in her career. “Today I am a residential aide at Pinnacle Treatment Services,” she says. “I adore my job and the staff that surrounds me. I have a great relationship with my daughter and even though I do not have her, we are seeing each other and that’s enough for me at this point in time.”

The biggest change in Alisha hasn’t been her recovery, or her material situation, so much as it has been her developing a powerful inner strength and resilience—which helps her stay strong on good days and on bad days alike. She says, “People—us addicts—think that when we get clean that we get all the things that life has to offer. We feel like we should get the car, the license, the husband, the kids back, the perfect job, and that all will be right in the world again. Sometimes that is true and sometimes it is not.”

Bright Future

Alisha is looking forward to a new career helping other people in recovery. She says, “Since I work in a peer-centered field, I can now get certified. I look forward to sending other people like myself in Kimberly’s direction. I’m looking forward to marriage and a bigger house. Those are things I never in my wildest dreams imagined. They weren’t possible until now.”

Alisha’s story can teach us so many things: it reminds us that there is always a way back up from rock bottom; it reminds us not to take the people and the opportunities in our lives for granted; and it inspires us to keep looking for chances to make positive changes in our own lives and communities.

Programs like RESTORE can be the catalyst, but big change comes from people deciding to push themselves forward. It takes time. It takes patience. But, most of all, it takes the ability to envision a better future—and believe in it enough to act on it.

Two adults sitting on a curb

Trust and Transformation – One Survivor’s Story

In a pandemic, the safest place is at home—except if you live with an abuser. But even the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t stopped people who live with domestic violence making the brave choice to leave and ensure bright, violence-free futures for their families. At TAP Domestic Violence Services, our staff use their experience to help survivors relearn how to build trusting relationships.  Although the pandemic has presented us with new challenges, we keep showing up at work each day because survivors have already made the choice to change their lives and the trust they show in us is a two-way street.

“I Want Better for My Son”

One survivor, who we will call Elizabeth, describes how her transformation started with the conviction that she needed to make changes for her son: “I was in an abusive relationship. I was pregnant and my mental health was suffering from the abuse. I wanted something better for my unborn child and I knew that if I didn’t make changes I was going to end up dead or in jail, or that my abuser was going to end up dead.”

She says, “I want better for my son. I don’t want him experiencing the trauma I went through having an absent father and a drug-addicted mother.”

How TAP Helped

Elizabeth worked with TAP to make the first leap of faith. She left her home and most of her belongings behind. “TAP DVS has provided me with tools and resources. Without them, I wouldn’t have anything. TAP DVS helped me relocate and furnish an empty apartment, bought diapers and clothes for my son, continues to provide me with bus passes, counseling, a support network, and a safe environment.”

She was just getting used to her new surroundings when the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown began.

She still worries about it. “COVID-19 scares me because I have some serious health issues,” she says. “I’m also scared for my son because he was born premature,” she says. Her life during the pandemic also has other gnawing stresses that creep up more slowly.  “My mental health has also been affected,” she says. “I miss human interaction.”

Building Trust

Meeting clients face-to-face during the pandemic may have seemed like a risk, but it was important to secure PPE and find places safe enough to meet with clients. The work TAP DVS does is a partnership—not a prescription.

We work with our clients to support their goals, so building a sense of trust is critical to the success of the program—and the long-term success of our clients. Whenever Elizabeth was in public, it felt like strangers posed a danger. Whether on the bus or in her apartment complex, she felt that, “The only people I feel comfortable being around right now are my DVS case worker, my mental health case worker, and my SwiftStart case worker.”

Beyond Crisis Care

Working with the DVS staff also helped reverse some of the damage that came from growing up in a home with substance addiction and living with an abusive partner. Though she left her relationship, she still felt as though she was under her old abuser’s toxic spell. “My abuser would tell me every day I was stupid and that I was going to end up just like my mother—a junkie,” she explains.

Elizabeth says that working with DVS, “helped me change that [toxic] thought process, and helped me realize my abuser was telling me lies.” She says that a big part of that came from the honesty and human connection the program provides. “My DVS case worker was open and honest with her own struggles with alcohol and her recovery from addiction, which has helped me believe in myself to stop using drugs,” Elizabeth says.  

The connection with staff started right away. “The first day I showed up at their office I was very hesitant on providing them with any information. They didn’t pressure me, they worked to gain my trust and have been there every step of the way,” Elizabeth says. She points out that, “the people who work at DVS have been in your shoes, and they will help you recover and learn to love yourself again.”

You Are Not Alone

Working with them, she says, can “help you realize you are not alone, and that there are resources out there to help you get out!” Even beyond providing the basic necessities that make an escape from a domestic violence situation possible, she says that working with DVS staff fostered trust, and eventually confidence in herself and her ability to be a great mother to her son. “TAP DVS has helped me feel more confident in myself and helped me love myself again. They helped me be a better mother. I didn’t have strong role models on how to be a parent and because of DVS I was able to take a parenting class.”

Now, Elizabeth is “looking forward to starting the Certified Nursing Assistant program through TAP, to being financially stable.” She is also looking forward to “being in a safe, nontoxic relationship,” when the COVID-19 pandemic has subsided.

Donors Help Make This Possible

The work DVS does relies on survivors making brave choices to leave, to trust, and to change. That’s why the support you can give them doesn’t just help turn one life around—it has huge effects on the next generation, too. As Elizabeth pointed out, the important things that keep you motivated to improve your own life often aren’t just about you. As she said, having come from a traumatic home, “I am looking forward to watching my son grow up in a healthy and stable home.”

Domestic violence survivors
Father helps child with homework on laptop

5 Tips for Parenting In Quarantine

Postive Parenting in Quarantine

Parenting is hard. Period.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and each step takes guts and determination—and a good plan. To be a positive role-model for your family means being your best self consistently, supporting others, and being patient, loving, and encouraging. We all need a little help so we’ve gathered five tips for parenting in quarantine.

Doing it all gracefully in the middle of the shelter-in-place orders issued in response to the spread of COVID-19 has highlighted how the task can sometimes seem impossible.

Indeed, when you’re stressed out, tired, and facing uncertainty in what seems like every direction, being that calm, patient, centering force for your growing kids isn’t just tough—it can be downright daunting.

5 Tips for Parenting In Quarantine

TAP’s Fathers First program staff members Lateefah Trent and Ed Hrinya shared their tips for how to make the best of parenting in quarantine and what things to focus on when you feel overwhelmed. Here’s their advice based on parenting lessons they’ve learned in helping hundreds of fathers over the years.

1. No Parent is Perfect

Start by reminding yourself that this is hard! A big lesson Lateefah and Ed’s work has taught them is to start where you are.

“No emotion is good or bad, positive or negative. It’s normal to feel angry, jealous, sad, frustrated, etc.” they say. “But emotions are energy. And how you express that energy can be good or bad, positive or negative.”

“When you recognize that these things are just part of being human,” Lateefah and Ed explain, “it is easier to deal with them in healthier ways.”

2. Building Good Momentum

While a global pandemic isn’t something individual parents can do much to change, they can help set the tone for the whole household by modeling behaviors that show kids how to deal with stress in an appropriate way.

Firstly, it starts with asking for help when you need it. “It’s okay to not be okay,” Lateefah and Ed urge parents to remember. “This is a stressful time for all of us. Don’t feel like you have to be Superdad or Supermom—just focus on taking care of yourself and your children, and trust that the crisis, like all storms, will blow over eventually.”

3. Looking for Little Things

However, sometimes little things have a big impact on your state of mind. For example, setting a routine helps make sure the big things get done at work or at home and makes life feels more normal. Sometimes this means showering and putting on real clothes. Sometimes it means making sure to sleep enough. Remembering to make healthy choices can also have a huge impact on your mental and physical health—and your energy to deal with chaos and crisis.

Reading, writing, or even watching a movie can help your brain rest and reset. Taking breaks where you can is part of being rested enough to be a great parent. Remembering to reward and praise your children when they do something well can also be a great reminder to reward and praise yourself.

4. What if We’re Stuck at Home?

No two ways about it, feeling stuck might come from staying inside too long—but it becomes a state of mind as much as it does a physical limitation. To change up the way things feel, even a small twist on a normal activity can make a big difference.

Movie nights feel a little more like the theater if you make a special snack. Making dinner can be a cooking contest. Books can be family activities if you read out loud together. It’s also a great time of year for gardening, tea time picnics, or just for being outside together.

5. Remembering What It’s All About

The staff at Fathers First mostly focus their work on helping fathers. However, the approach they take is based on the fundamental dynamics that all families need to thrive. It’s important we stay in touch with those fundamentals because of what’s at stake.

Above all, the important thing that parents can do is set the right example—especially when it comes to showing children we can deal effectively with stress and be resilient in the face of traumatic events. As Lateefah and Ed point out, “Children often do not have the experience or coping skills to do so. We as parents must model resilience in our lives so that our children can learn to do the same.”

You can make a huge difference too.

Fathers First creates a comfortable environment for men and women to learn communication and parenting skills while working on improving their overall self-worth and relationships. If you think you could help fathers or father-figures, or just want to be part of supporting parents, get involved—call (540) 777-4673.

Sonia Gravely

Supporter Spotlight: Sonia Gravely

How One TAP Supporter and Community Advocate Draws from Her Past to Make a Difference Today

It was 2016, and Sabrina’s Place—the only free supervised visitation and safe exchange center in the western half of Virginia—was facing closure. For Sonia Gravely, being the best version of herself means leading the charge to empower others and working toward solutions. When she saw the news, she knew she had to do something.

Taking a Personal Interest in the Matter

Supporting Sabrina’s Place is a doubly important cause for Sonia. She knew Sabrina Reed, the young woman murdered by her estranged husband during a custody exchange, for whom Sabrina’s Place is named. As a domestic violence survivor herself, Sonia considers survivors sharing their stories essential. She says it’s important that people, “can see it’s the person you see every day, your neighbor, regular people, women like myself..”

Making a Difference

When Sonia decided to support Sabrina’s Place, she knew she wanted to do something that both supported the program financially and provided a platform for people affected by domestic violence. As a member of the Missionary Ministry of Hill Street Baptist Church, she was eager to get her church involved. She created the biennial Benefit Concert hosted by Hill Street Baptist Church, which now raises several thousand dollars for Sabrina’s Place at each event and includes participation from 14 other area churches. At each event, an anonymous survivor shares his or her story as a reminder that people around us often carry unseen scars.

TAP’s Housing and Human Services Director says of Sonia, “Her passion for survivors of domestic and intimate partner violence is what drives her. She takes on planning the Benefit Concert and fills the seats to ensure that we can serve families that need us. Her heart is as big as the voices that sing! She is the kind of person you want in your corner at every event cheering—and planning!”

Being the Change You Want to See

The Benefit Concert isn’t the only way Sonia supports Sabrina’s Place. She also organizes an off-year donation drive, collecting items like toiletries, cleaning supplies, and snacks for the participants’ children. For her, the process isn’t just about doing something—it’s about becoming the kind of person you want to be.

“Knowing the domestic violence scars I have, it helped me make a different decision on who Sonia should be and where Sonia should be. It made me redirect me. That’s why I went back to school,” she says. “That’s what made me want to make mental health for women my focus. I had worked in affordable housing all my life, and that was great, but I knew I could do more.”

Does Sonia’s story sound like you or someone you know? If so, give us a call at 540-777-4673 or explore our website to find a program that inspires you and helps fulfill your vision for a better world.

Child on virtual meeting

Adapting for Now, Learning for the Future: Sabrina’s Place Visits Go Virtual

TAP created Sabrina’s Place to facilitate face-to-face interaction while protecting participants’ physical and emotional health during custody exchanges or court-ordered child/parent visits. Now, a microscopic threat—one capable of penetrating a number of our carefully planned physical safeguards—has forced us to rethink what it means to keep people safe in our center. Because of this, Sabrina’s Place visits have gone virtual.

Safety First

TAP designed Sabrina’s Place to prevent physical and emotional harm. With its foundational focus on safety,  Sabrina’s Place has separate parking lots, different waiting areas, and off-duty Roanoke City police officers providing security. Monitors escort families through the center at all times. However, all the locked doors and security cameras in the world can’t address the threat of a respiratory virus. As the threats to our clients evolve, so too must the services we provide to mitigate those threats.

Fortunately, technology has evolved steadily since Sabrina’s Place’s founding—it’s now cheaper, more widespread, and more accessible than it was in the past (although problems with accessibility still linger). Now that Sabrina’s Place visits have gone virtual, families can access video-based services using Wi-Fi and mobile devices.

A New Set of Security Concerns

Like many others, we’re exploring virtual technologies we might not have considered before—for example, virtual visits. Despite video conferencing’s widespread use, it still carries risks and downsides. We’ve all heard the news stories of so-called “Zoombombers” or otherwise inappropriate third-party call participants hacking into online video chats. This lack of security and control makes such options a nonstarter for Sabrina’s Place: no matter the venue, we must still protect our clients’ personal information and monitor visits for signs of mental or emotional abuse.

Thankfully, platforms created to facilitate telehealth calls offer Sabrina’s Place a secure and tested medium over which to conduct visits. With a HIPPA-compliant platform, monitors can focus on making sure the content of the visits is appropriate.

The Right Fit for Some Families—Even Without the Virus

Virtual visits could turn out to be the best trauma-informed change to Sabrina’s Place’s design in years. Over the years, we have noted that some children are apprehensive about visits with non-custodial parents/guardians. This could be a great way to ease children into visits–especially those children who have experienced large gaps in visitations over time. 

Sabrina’s Place is also the only secure supervised visitation program serving the western half of Virginia—as well as large portions of surrounding states—providing services free for the families who need it. Some families drive hours to have their visits at Sabrina’s Place. The option to supplement or replace those in-person visits would ease their time and travel burden.

Lessons to Take With Us

Best practices are always evolving—and they should be! Ahead of the switch to virtual services, TAP Housing and Human Services Director talked with current and past clients.

After one client said, “I wish this had been available when I was a client, I would have much preferred video visits, especially starting out,” she knew she had to think of the switch to virtual not as a temporary measure, but as a new part of the center’s operations moving into the future.