GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — More than 100 people came to Absegami High School Saturday morning — families, parents, children and law-enforcement and social-service agencies — with one common goal: to strengthen families.
More than 30 agencies set up shop at the Coalition for a Safe Community’s Family Relationship Forum, offering free information about the services they provide.
Dewane Parker, chairman of the programming committee for the coalition, said the forum was intended to show people what’s out there to help them.
“This is our first time with the forum,” Parker said. “These agencies are here to assist with whatever you need for the family.”
The coalition, led by Chairman Perry Mays, runs programs and events to decrease violence in communities and to foster stronger relationships between youths and law enforcement in schools and neighborhoods. Saturday’s forum was one of the larger initiatives the coalition has undertaken, Mays said.
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The agencies on site included AtlantiCare, which provided health screenings and healthy-living resources, as well as school districts, law-enforcement agencies and the Women’s Center. Financial agencies were available to talk about first-time homebuyer programs and budgeting assistance for paying utilities and household bills.
Representatives at the table for Family Promise of Atlantic County, a nonprofit that works with homeless families in the area, said Saturday they had met a few families who plan to use their resources.
Breakout information sessions held in classrooms at the high school addressed topics that affect family life and the household, such as dating violence, drugs and how to communicate effectively with children.
Atlantic County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Anne Crater led the child-communication session, focusing on ways adults, parents and guardians can speak to kids without using negatives, complex questions or confusing syntax to make them uncomfortable.
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She said law enforcement uses similar strategies in speaking with children.
“If these skills work for us, they’ll work for you,” Crater told about a dozen parents.
Dajenaba Blackwell, 43, of Atlantic City, attended the forum with her three children, sisters and granddaughter.
She had heard about the event from her sister and thought it was a good idea to explore what was available to her. She said as a full-time worker at the Showboat Atlantic City hotel, it’s hard balancing family life and a job.
“I think this is phenomenal,” Blackwell said, adding she hopes the forums take place more often. “I’m a hard worker, and it’s a lot of hours.”
Blackwell spoke of specific challenges to Atlantic County, such as casino closings and unemployment.
“This information definitely needs to hit my community. We are affected,” she said.