Our local Office of the State Attorney General and The Office of Laura Hinojosa, Hidalgo County District Clerk’s Office estimates 38,073 cases involving children last year that receive or are in need of child support since their parents do not live together. Sometimes parents are in conflict and need help making good decisions about their children or they need help making a visitation exchange without together quarreling or fighting. When this occurs and the parents do not seem to place the child’s well-being as their primary priority, they may be ordered by a judge to attend co-parenting classes.

Co-parenting is an approach to parenting after a divorce or even when the couple has never married that involves shared parenting responsibilities through healthy communication and agreements that benefit children.

TOGETHER TIME *

Co-Parenting Education & Safe, Neutral Exchange Visitation Site sponsored in part by the State of Texas Office of the Attorney General.

Project Description - The Boys & Girls Club of McAllen has established Together Time which provides co-parenting education and the only public safe, secure and fun staging area in the county and region for children to make visitation exchanges between custodial and non-custodial parents. There is a special effort to reach out to not only divorcing, separating but also fragile families (forming families). The Boys & Girls Club is a child focused, fun environment which lends itself to non-threatening interaction for children and family members.

* Together Time is funded in part by a grant from the State of Texas Office of Attorney General’s Visitation and Access Program.

Together Time Experiences

One couple started as what the State of Texas Office of Attorney General would call a fragile family, which means, the mother and father of the child have never been married and usually have not ever established a household together. They were students. The mother attended our Saturday 9 a.m. co-parenting class while the father attended the class just after that at 10:30 a.m. every Saturday. The message of the classes began to affect them. Outside of the classes they began to discuss the welfare of their child and how to make that the priority of their lives. They began to warm up to each other and realized they truly had feelings for one another that they wanted to build upon. They have begun dating. While reconciliation or even family formation is not the goal of Together Time, it can work out that way sometimes.

One of our most heart wrenching and heart warming story is of a father who had not seen his four boys in four years. Mom and dad had both alleged abuses of and against each other. Some of it may have been true. We do not know so we are learning to remain neutral. What we do know, is that the mom had not allowed visitation of the children for four years and the dad had not pursued visitation.

While the mom took a co-parenting education class, our youth development professional played in our game room with the boys who ranged in age from 5 to 13 years old, the dad came into the game room after the start of the mom’s class and played with the boys for nearly an hour. The dad taught them how to shoot pool in our game room. There was literally joy from the younger boys but naturally anger from the oldest. (He was damaged the most.) When mom was out, she greeted the dad with civility in front of the children and proceeded to gather the boys to head home. Dad went into his session of Together Time classes. The parents acted like grown ups. It was a quiet, uneventful start to the untrained eye; but to those of us who knew the story - this family traveled light years! The youngest boy’s soft eyes told the story in volumes. With his voice, he simply said, “Bye dad. See you next time.”

That’s what Together Time is all about, amazing beginnings after tragic endings. For more information on Together Time, please call 956-605-6616.

Laura Reagan-Porras is a sociologist and Executive Director of the Boys & Girls Club of McAllen. She can be reached for question or comments at lreagan_porras@bgcmcallen.org or 956-682-5791.