Ron Woods Center used by 150 families

In a town the size of Carson City, there are few places families can turn to when they need a little push to keep them on their feet.

The Ron Wood Family Resource Center tries to fill that gap.

Executive Director Tilisa May and a six-person staff blend counseling with education in the hopes that parents, having trouble with the day-to-day duties of parenting or children who don't seem to listen, will come and take what they need to succeed.

"Carson City has no other program quite like it," May said, sitting in her Stewart Street office. "It's another option, but for some parents it's the only option."

Although many of the families are referred by the juvenile and criminal courts, the center is open to all parents who need parenting education, advice on truancy, or simply a road map through the maze of institutional resources.

"Many of our parents just come in to find out where they can go if their children get sick, or if their children need help in school," May said. "We try to give them as many options as possible."

One of the center's more popular offerings is a weekly parenting class. Child care is provided during class hours and costs are limited to materials fees. The rest is subsidized by the center. Parenting class encourages parent-child interaction with four formats; active parenting, parenting teenagers, single parenting and a Spanish-language class.

The class is a small portion of what the center does. When children are picked up as truants, they are brought to the center where they stay until the parents are notified. Often, truant children show up at the Boys & Girls Club next door and are walked over to the center, May said.

Anger management, in-class one-on-one tutoring and a library of parenting and youth-related material all work together with the mission of the center, May said. "It's about having what they need when they need it."

Maria Landa, her husband Isidro and their four children, Junior, Rudy, Jose and baby Suzette, have a long-standing relationship with the center staff. With the help of the classes, home visitation and simple advice, they have been able to get by with limited income and English proficiency.

Family Advocate Cindy Sanchez coaches the family as they put down their roots in Carson City. They recently moved from Genoa, Maria's first stop after immigrating from El Salvador.

The differences between American and Latino culture make it difficult to adjust to a different type of discipline.

"In their culture, if a child does not mind their parents, it is seen as acceptable to smack them," Sanchez said. "Here if you do that, you are put in the criminal system.

"My purpose is to give (families) as much help as I can and keep them out of the system," she said.

So parenting for Maria, like many other mothers, is deeply affected by the culture of the place in which her family lives. "If they don't listen, they go to time out," she said. "And they listen - sometimes."

The Landa children range in age from 6 months to 8 years.

The center is a nonprofit organization, funded mostly by federal grants. Since 1995, it has gone from a startup scraping by on tiny grants, to an established community resource with an yearly budget of about $300,000. Recent growth means the center is busting at the seams. May said one of her priorities in the near future will be to secure a new facility.

"We definitely have to focus on that and we have been talking about it at meetings," she said. "But for now, we just have to keep going forward."

The Ron Wood Family Resource Center offers:

-- Truancy counseling: The meaning of truancy, habitual truancy and the potential legal liability of a parent who fails to prevent child truancy.

-- Weekly parenting classes.

-- Referrals to appropriate services.

-- Case management and individual assessment as well as home visitation.

-- Counseling donated by local licensed counselors.

-- A six week anger management program.

-- Academic in-class tutoring.

-- A resource library.

-- A truancy center.


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