Bridging the Gap Between Children’s Self-Reliance and Safety

The other day, a friend of mine (I’ll call her Kate) and her eight-year-old son (I’ll call him Matt) stopped by the library to drop off a book. Windows down, Matt decided he wanted to wait for mom in the car.

When Kate returned from the library, she found a woman, parked, blocking her exit from the parking space. Her car window was rolled up and she was on the phone. Kate waved to the driver; however, the woman would not make eye contact and continued talking on the phone. Finally she drove away.

Shortly after Kate returned home, two police officers arrived. One officer explained that the police had been called by a woman who said that a child was left in a car in the library parking lot. Kate and the officer had a discussion and the officer explained that they regularly receive calls from people who want to “police” their neighbors, but will not talk to them directly.

This story is a great starting point for a discussion about what we can do as community members to be “good neighbors.” The woman in the car could have opted to “hang out” for a few minutes, ask the child if he was okay, and let the parent know, when she returned, that she was there to be on the “lookout” for her child. This shows empathy and compassion and also gives the parent the opportunity to become aware of the surrounding neighborhood through the eyes of another.

While it is critical that we call authorities if we see a child in imminent danger, it is also important to respond to events in a way that is helpful, safe, and compassionate toward families. This was a missed opportunity to make a positive connection.

This story also brings up questions that continue to perplex most communities. How do we help our children learn to be self-reliant, while also keeping them safe? All 10-year-olds are not identical; they mature at different rates and are ready for independent experiences at different times. Forty years ago, 90% of school children walked to school; that number is now 10%. In addition to exacerbating our epidemic of childhood obesity, we have also lost one of the hallmarks of developing autonomy as a child. We also struggle with the question of how old should a child be before she is left at home alone? Should I let Jane walk to the park alone or with a friend? Can Joey ride his bike to the neighborhood grocery store?

These are important discussions for us to have. As adults, it is our job to protect our children while giving them the space to become self-sufficient.

Back to Kate’s story, I checked in with her later and she happily reported that the police officers handled the situation with professionalism and understanding. They were, however, very unhappy with the woman who blocked her car in the parking lot, and said they would be discussing the inappropriateness of this with the driver.

— Joelle Gallagher, Cope Executive Director


Celebrating Cope Fathers

Last Sunday, Cope celebrated a sunny Father’s Day with our UpValley families in a cozy Napa Valley park. The event brought out many families from our Baby Steps program who enjoyed a fun day of play! It was a wonderful opportunity to engage families, develop deeper attachments between fathers and their children, and build a larger support network among the families. All of the fathers expressed their enjoyment in watching their kids having fun and the laughter that they shared with their peers. The park provided a safe space for their children to run around together and develop new relationships. The event brought together families who have become a community in and of themselves. There were moms exchanging phone numbers so that they could set up a time for their kids to play in the future, and fathers learning more about each other’s children.IMG_1655

Our amazing Family Support Provider Adriana emphasized the importance of play between parents and their children and explained that when children see both parents having fun it helps them feel connected and loved. These group experiences help build protective factors by creatively engaging families with fun group activities that build resiliency. They also help to increase the social-emotional competence of children by helping them learn social skills in a shared setting with their peers. Our family socials promote social connections between the parents by facilitating mutual support and shared fun with fellow parents. These group activities encourage a deeper knowledge of parent-child development by providing parents with an uninterrupted time and safe space to observe their children’s behaviors. Parents also get the chance to discuss their child’s development with fellow parents, and to observe play that is developmentally appropriate for children and see how it enhances their growth.


The parents and children particularly loved the parachute game, where everyone holds a piece of the parachute in the air while bouncing balls on the top. All of our family games have a set purpose, to help children develop new skills while strengthening the bond between parent and child. Playing with a parachute increases a child’s ability to follow directions, use language, join group activities, socialize, develop small muscle control, and strengthen their large muscles. All these skills strengthen the children’s physical and emotional growth, while also encouraging family fun and a sense of connection to others.


We are constantly inspired by the commitment our fathers have made to strengthening the bonds with their children, and ensuring their children grow up in safe, healthy, and happy homes. Thank you to all the supportive fathers out there!


Close-Up With Cope

Advocating for Children’s Rights

Yes on Measure Y

Cope is supporting the Napa County Measure Y in the upcoming election on June 7, 2016. We believe that Measure Y will:

  • Improve the long-term health of Napa County by helping our children thrive. Quality programs for our kids lead to healthy, productive adults.
  • Generate public savings by as much as $17 for every dollar invested in quality early education and afterschool programs.
  • Increase the chances of a successful future for all our kids. 40% of Napa County’s children enter school without the early learning they need to succeed.
  • Help teens and adolescents make positive lifestyle and academic choices to keep them on a path to a healthy and productive future.
  • Increase access to childcare so parents can work without worrying about who will take care of the kids.

Register to vote by May 23rd for the California primary this June.


Vote With Your Mission

CalNonprofits is encouraging all California nonprofits to “vote with your mission” in order to increase voter turnout from the nonprofit sector. If you believe in your nonprofit or the nonprofit you support, show that support at the voter booths in June and November. It is crucial that we support the policies and bills that provide funding to our nonprofits. At Cope, we believe that children’s rights must be protected and advocated for, but children do not typically have a voice in what happens to them. Children cannot vote for their own interests, so it is important that we vote for them by supporting policies that best meet their needs.

Addressing Poverty

The ongoing economic hardships that hit the whole of the United States are still impacting millions of families and causing ruptures in stability. Napa County still faces high childhood poverty rates, low employment levels, lack of access to affordable childcare, inability to find proper housing, and systemic racism and discrimination.

Research has found that poverty has an enormous impact on children’s physical health, mental health, and overall well-being. An “estimated 9% of children age 0-5 who live 200% below the poverty level have a serious emotional disturbance or serious mental health illness.”

Through advocacy and outreach, Cope has been a part of the movement to bring the minimum wage issue to policymakers, and helped to raise awareness in the community of the need for a higher living wage. Working with the Napa Valley Coalition of Nonprofit Agencies, our executive director has encouraged members to speak out via surveys, contact with the Board of Supervisors, and letters to the editor of our local newspaper. If we are going to truly help children, we need to focus on promoting programs to reduce family poverty first.

Cope Advocates for the Community

  • Napa County CAPC: As the lead agency for Napa’s Child Abuse Prevention Council (CAPC), Cope works to educate the community on child abuse prevention efforts.
  • Triple P Countywide: We are implementing a system-wide collaboration of Triple P services throughout Napa County in partnership with local agencies and family resource centers.
  • ACEs Connection: CAPC members led the effort to create a Napa County ACEs Connection group through the ACEs Connection Network to prevent adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), heal trauma, and build resilience in Napa County.
  • Funding the Next Generation: Cope’s executive director and associate director are on the steering committee of this initiative, which works to engage the community in prioritizing children’s rights, identifying the proportion of Napa County budget funds spent on children, and advocating for a local dedicated funding stream for children.

How You Can Get Involved

A Conversation With Dr. Bonny Forrest

We are incredibly fortunate to have Dr. Bonny Forrest as the special guest speaker at our Blue Ribbon Month Event on April 6 at the Napa Valley College Performing Arts Center.

We asked Dr. Forrest to help our community better understand ACEs and the most critical adversities facing children today in preparation for her visit. Here is just a snippet of the topics she’ll be addressing in her presentation.

What are the primary obstacles children today face for thriving in adulthood?

Children face too much pressure for success. There are also the issues of poverty and lack of an enriched environment, or parents who are not able to spend time with their children because they are trying to make ends meet. This is complicated by the lack of adequate childcare or parental family leave policies.

What are ACEs and what is their impact on children and the community at-large?

Adverse childhood experiences put children at risk for success. They are conditions which primarily can be alleviated with education and community support. You can learn what your ACE score is here:

How can the average community member help to prevent ACEs?

We can create a strong community of education and support for all children three and under. Prevention and intervention leads to more successful children and less suffering in the long-term.

How have your clients who have experienced ACEs overcome their challenges?

The best strategy has been strong intervention programs that help parents learn of alternatives in parenting.

How can helping parents better understand normal child development help to address maltreatment?

We tend to parent the way we were parented. Teaching parents that they have good alternatives to behavior that results in maltreatment can create an environment of support for families.

What is the biggest misunderstanding about childhood trauma?

Trauma doesn’t end when the physical bruises are healed. The effects of childhood trauma last a lifetime, impact success, and cost the child and our society more than most people can ever imagine.

Want to hear more about how you can help children who have experienced trauma? Come to An Evening with Dr. Bonny Forrest at the Napa Valley College Performing Arts Center on April 6, 2016 at 5pm. RSVP here today: