Fostering Children Showed Margaret Healy
the Importance of Parent Education
How can you take care of a baby when you’re little more than a child yourself? How can you create family life when you’ve grown up without structure? From where do you get the physical and emotional strength to keep drug and alcohol problems from impacting your children?
These are just a few of the questions Margaret Healy deals with as a parent educator, especially when working with the incarcerated, the teen parents, the addicted.
“I worry about the future,” says the co-author of Taking Care of Me (So I Take Care of My Children). “I see so many parents whose daily challenges discourage them. Because some of these parents have never experienced healthy family life, it’s difficult for them to create such a life for their children.”
In some cases, daily life for these parents is an overwhelming struggle for survival, Healy continues. Many of her clients don’t have a road map for creating satisfying lives for themselves. Nor do they have the self-esteem or the support systems to believe that they can create a meaningful family life for their children.
“Many are looking for tools to help them give their children what they need,” she says.
Healy’s work has shown her that when a family is insecure, children may grow up without a clear understanding of values, how to get along with others or the importance of a social conscience. They often have low self-esteem and do not see how they fit into their communities.
Because such children may end up in foster care or adoptive homes, that’s how some of them are touched by Healy’s work. For almost twenty years, this parent educator has helped families build on their strengths and develop the tools necessary for a satisfying family life. Through her teaching at Santa Rosa (CA) Junior College, she works with foster and adoptive parents to prepare them for caring with children who are suffering from “out-of-home” placement. Her specialty is parenting education for those with school-age through adolescent children.
Healy has worked almost all of her career with kids this age. For most of the 16 years she spent as a Sister of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, she taught middle and high school, often striving to help teenagers struggling with drugs, low self-esteem and issues surrounding the war in Vietnam. After she left the convent, she began fostering children, which showed her the importance of parenting education.
“I realized you have to start with parents to solve problems. Most parents love their children, but all parents need support. All parents need to be reminded that what we do and how we take care of ourselves impacts even the unborn child,” she points out, “and that impact is permanent.”
The dozens of children and teen mothers who have been sheltered in Healy’s home may have come to her with issues, but they leave with a better understanding of their own worth, of what family life can be like—and, thanks to Margaret Healy, a idea of how to create that family life.