Posted: September 23, 2020

In the Prevention Action Network (PAN) Member Spotlight monthly series, hear from Prevent Child Abuse NC’s (PCANC) PAN members, learn about their work, and what inspires them and their partnership with PCANC to help build safe, stable, nurturing environments in North Carolina! 

For our first PAN Member Spotlight, we introduce Carmen Martell, Lead Family Support Specialist at the Harnett County Partnership for Children (PFC). Martell has been with Harnett County PFC for two years and has been facilitator for Circle of Parents for one year. She lives in Cameron, NC with her husband, who is a veteran. Get to know more about her below!

What is your favorite part about your job?

It’s so rewarding to come together as a whole family; the families that I serve and myself. It’s a whole family as a unit and I love that. I love that I can provide support, but more than that, I love that we have that sense of belonging and connection.

How long have you been a PAN Member and how has that added value to you and your career?

I became a Circle of Parent Facilitator in May 2019 and wow, what a rewarding year. It is amazing to be part of something that is bigger than I thought. I was in a bubble before. When I came here [PAN] and see that this agency [Prevent Child Abuse NC] has a voice about difficult topics like child maltreatment and [I] can be part of the solution and not the problem.

[PCANC] believes in early prevention, takes the stigmas out of the equation, and allows us to do more and not be afraid. To me, it is a blessing to be a part of this and to advocate for the children. What a privilege to be the voice; to be a part of something so big. I understand that it is [about] child maltreatment but it is so much more. They [PCANC] have all these trainings and resources that have helped me in my line of work at my job to become better and to help other families. What a wonderful experience I have had this past year! I could not ask for more.

What PAN Member benefit do you most value?

I can just go online at any time and look up anything [from the network resources]. I can call and say I need this, or I have an idea or need someone to help with this and they are there. That willingness, their disposition, and their love for what they do is reflected in the way they treat us.

How have you and your agency adapted due to COVID-19 and how did you support families?

At Harnett County PFC, their mission is to improve children’s well-being…through community-based programs and family support is so important. During that time [COVID-19 pandemic], we knew right away that we had to [continue to] provide those services to the families that we serve.

We created a private Facebook page. We communicated with parents through phone on a regular basis – we listened to their concerns, their needs, and from there we tried to accommodate those needs. We provided them with snacks, diapers, and resource boxes.

We created prop boxes for them and for the children that way they can entertain their children at home with papers, scissors, glue, and other materials to help – because we knew it was hard. We also emailed them a list of local resources and information from the community.

The wonderful thing about the prop boxes is that they had to pick them up on site, or we delivered them at their home, and those brief conversations created wonderful things. We’re still having those connections, we’re still listening to them, we’re still understanding what they’re going through, and we can relate to things that are difficult.

What is your role serving the Spanish speaking community?

I know with our culture, it’s very hard to ask for help. [I love] having the opportunity to be that voice and that ear to listen to them when they come to us with their questions or concerns and help them through translation of paperwork, documentation, or any questions they have about school systems, the community, or what child care is the best. Giving those resources, and in their language, what a benefit! They feel more secure, they are not afraid of the language barrier or worry about not getting the help that they need.

Being a Spanish speaking [program] facilitator has helped this community grow. They see me as a friend. I provide them with information on child development. Sometimes…we just continue a pattern [from the way we were raised] and it’s important to understand child development and the role of parents.

What is your take on increasing supports for parents through investments in family friendly workplace policies and childcare?

During this time, having a sense of security is very important and job security is one of the biggest concerns that parents have. Who am I going to leave my child with? What am I going to do if I can’t find childcare? All these concerns are valid. When a workplace provides family friendly policies, they are saying, “I care about you and I’m going to help you with the health and well-being of your family.” And when those things are in place, you’ll have tremendous benefits, not only for that family but for the company as well. Families can improve their economic status, their performance because they are not worried all the time, and they improve that loyalty to the company.

What would you like to say about the importance of the 2020 Census?

We shared resources about the Census in those prop boxes we distributed to families. I really want to encourage families to [complete the census]. This is important for all the policies: childcare, education, all the things that benefit the whole community – the whole nation. If you have not done it, do it – if you want changes in your community.

If you could give one piece of advice to families and communities right now, what would it be?

Celebrate victories. Instead of focusing on the long to do lists or that list of things you haven’t accomplished, just focus on that one thing that you did. And, have some grace. This shall pass [and] we will be more resilient than ever. Focus on the positive, celebrate the small things, and keep moving forward.

Learn more and join the Prevention Action Network

The Prevention Action Network is an affiliation of agencies and individuals who are invested in developing safe, stable, nurturing relationships for all North Carolina children. Joining the Prevention Action Network gives you or your agency access to trainings, research, and statistics, as well as a network of other professionals and citizens who are also committed to ensuring all of North Carolina’s children and families remain strong. Learn more and join today!