Great Grandmother, Emma Ortega

Emma Ortega has raised her great grandson Donovan ever since he was a newborn, with little involvement from the boy’s mother. This kind- hearted and vivacious 75-year-old admits that being a full-time caregiver of a 5-year-old can be a challenging, but rewarding, task. So she attended two series of parenting education classes held

by BCFS Health and Human Services’ Precious Minds New Connections and Texas Families: Together and Safe.

BCFS’ parenting education programs are aimed at preventing child abuse and empowering parents and caregivers with the resources and tips they need to resolve conflict, improve their family communication and create a healthy, stable home environment.

“I’m a throwback to the Dark Ages, I’m like a dinosaur,” Emma says. “I come from an era when a child should be seen but not heard. Now it’s so different, which is why the classes have been great because there’s a whole new way of parenting. I learned you should hear a child, but establish limits.”

Emma is such a passionate supporter of BCFS parenting programs she recommends them to other caregivers, and attends every available BCFS class and local opportunity to gobble up lessons and tips. Glancing at her calendar, she explained how in one in week she’d penciled in multiple classes on raising a strong reader, focusing on science and math, making the alphabet fun, and how to communicate with children.

Emma says it wasn’t just the helpful curriculum that drew her to the classes, but the close relationships she built with BCFS instructors, staff and other families in attendance.

They became a support system for one another to provide advice or just a listening ear.

“We really connected with the teachers and presenters,” says Emma. “They weren’t separate from us parents or stiff ‘professionals,’ they were with us, and we all came together as a team to share our personal experiences. There’s a tight-knit group of us that attend every class together. We are all equal in the classes because we all want what’s best for the kids — that’s why we’re there.”

“Parenting involves a lot of praying and hoping you’re doing the right thing,” says Emma. “You’re going to make mistakes along the way and that’s OK. For some reason if you get angrier than you should, you’ve got to be able to apologize and say you made a mistake. That way, the child knows it’s OK to make mistakes as long as you can talk to them about it. Sometimes I feel like I don’t always know what I’m doing because things can get so hard, but the classes are very encouraging.”

Emma says it’s important to set the right example for Donovan, and teach him to never give up. “It’s more than a full-time job taking care of a child, because even full-time jobs you get to leave sometimes. But as a parent and caregiver, the job never ends — But it is a privilege.”

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