(Aiken Standard) – It starts with gathering as a family around the table for dinner. Parents and children then participate in separate one-hour training sessions led by group leaders who are trained in the Strengthening Families Program curriculum. The evening ends with families joining back together for a 30-minute group activity or family skills training session.

Every week, for 14 weeks, families who attend the Strengthening Families Program at Children’s Place enjoy a good meal, skills-building groups for parents and children, raffle prizes, gift card giveaways, child care and fun and fellowship with other families. Participating families have at least one thing in common – a desire to strengthen bonds with their children and learn new parenting skills to make their family stronger as a whole.

In May, six families graduated from the Spring SFP program.

Proctor family standing on porch

The Proctor family is pictured. They were one of several families to participate in Children’s Place’s Strengthening Families program.

“I love seeing the progress each of the families make from day one of SFP to graduation,” said Marilyn Harris, one of the trained SFP Parent Facilitators. “Somewhere along the way, they realize the program is something they actually enjoy and that it’s helping them to improve their relationships and communication skills at home – and I feel privileged to witness that and be a part of their journey.”

SFP serves families in Aiken and Barnwell counties with children ages 6 to 11, helping them to develop positive discipline practices, improve communication, stay resilient in difficult times, reduce conflict and learn better parenting skills while assisting children with relationship-building and social skills. All of these factors play a vital role in keeping families strong while protecting against potential adverse childhood experiences, such as abuse or neglect.

“My favorite part about the program is coming back together to do the family skills-building activities with the kids,” said Melissa Proctor, who attended Spring SFP with her husband and two grandkids, and had perfect attendance during the 14-week program.

“We are proud to offer this nationally and internationally recognized evidence-based program to help local families who want to make the commitment to strengthen their family,” said Peggy Ford, director of Children’s Place. “SFP provides opportunities and skills for families – many of whom are struggling – to improve their own lives and meet the goals they set as a family.”

Children’s Place is a United Way of Aiken County agency that works with families to decrease abuse and neglect of children, increase stability in families, and improve children’s readiness for school. The Strengthening Families Program is funded by Children’s Trust of South Carolina in partnership with the Department of Social Services and Duke Endowment. To sign up for the Fall SFP program, or for more information, call Children’s Place, Inc. at 803-641-4144 or visit

Source: Aiken Standard