(T-G Photo by Brian Mosely)
This building houses the Center for Family Development, which provides invaluable services to 12 counties in the Middle Tennessee area, Bedford, Coffee, Giles, Hickman, Lawrence, Lewis, Lincoln, Marshall, Maury, Moore, Perry and Wayne. The Center is a licensed Child Abuse Prevention and Child Placement Agency.
Denise Hobbs, executive director, said the center originally served five counties and recently expanded.
“Some people think we’re the best kept secret around with all the people we help and serve.”
The center began in 1995 with the Healthy Families program and has grown into 10 others including two national ones, Healthy Families and C.A.S.A. [Court Appointed Special Advocates].
Hobbs said the main reason the center has been so successful is their staff of employees and many volunteers who work to help the families in this area.
“It’s a calling, a mission,” Hobbs said. “You don’t do for the pay, you do because it’s your purpose,”
The center gets funding from the United Way of Bedford County, United Way of the Highland Rim, the March of Dimes, IOLTA -Tennessee Bar Foundation, and grants, contracts and donations.
They also receive funding from the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, the U.S. and Tennessee Departments of Health, and a Human Services grant.
Families can have a variety of issues, ranging from poverty to dysfunction in the family itself, and the center is equipped to help. The center tailors its services to whatever the family may need.
Among its many functions, the center is a licensed Tennessee adoption agency, working to ensure that the birth mother feels supported and comfortable for the painful decision she has made to place her child.
Hobbs said that every birth mother has a unique situation they are going through, but they all love their children. She terms the decision as “the greatest act of love.”
Many people tend to think giving up a child for adoption is a callous choice, but it is far from it. Hobbs said that the birth mother goes through a terrible grieving process because of the decision.
In previous years, a birth mother was not allowed to have contact with the child, but that has changed to allow the mother to complete the grief process and let them say good-bye to the baby. The birth mother is also allowed limited contact in some cases.
The center does studies of adoptive homes and shares the information with the birth mother. Many times, the adoptive family is in the delivery room when the child is born.
“Adoption is a wonderful thing,” Hobbs said. “There’s a lot of pain in it, an emotional rollercoaster ... but there’s joy too.”
Another service the center offers are state-mandated TransParenting classes. The four-hour parenting classes have been required by the state of Tennessee for divorcing parents since a 2001 law.
The classes focus on shared parenting and grief issues. While the marriage may not last, they are parents forever.
Hobbs, who teaches the class along with Tamra Smith, says when someone gets a divorce, they think that one person is the parent on certain days and it will be their turn on other days, but parenting is a full-time job.
“People come to the class and they are mad,” Hobbs said. “ ‘We can’t believe we are being forced to take this class’ is what they say.
“If you can’t sit across the table from each other for four hours, how are you going to parent your children?” Hobbs asks. But after attending it, Hobbs said that the whole outlook of the parents changes.
The class spends a lot of time talking about the grief process, since divorce puts the children into this situation. An exit survey is also performed which is shared with the judge handling the divorce.
“It’s just a small part of what we do at the Center, but it has such a huge ripple effect,” Hobbs said. “Some have said after the classes that they would give it [their marriage] another shot.”
For more information on the Center, call 684-4676.