Bradenton agency mission reinforced by Child Abuse Prevention Month

vmannix@bradenton.comApril 23, 2013 

BRADENTON -- Thirty-five-year-old Katrina Bellemare is like a lot of working mothers on our community.

After returning home, she spends time with 3-year-old daughter, Savannah, and husband, Jamie, and starts preparing dinner.

And like a lot of working moms, Bellemare can't leave the job at the office, even if there's no paperwork.

It's still on her mind.

"This job is my passion," said the new executive director at Family Partnership Center, 602 Third St. E, Suite A, a nonprofit whose mission is helping parents with the skills and support necessary to maintaining a safe, stable home for their children.

That April is national Child Abuse Prevention Month resonates with Bellemare, who also has three stepchildren. She now leads an agency that serves 3,300 parents and children in DeSoto, Manatee and Sarasota counties.

"What we do is go into families, working with parents one-on-one, teaching them basic skills," she said. "Ways of disciplining children that aren't hurtful to the child, ways of coping with their child's behavior, reacting to their child's behavior in a positive way, working on really changing cycles of abuse that have been happening."

According to Family Part

nership Center statistics, there were 4,236 child abuse reports in Manatee County in 2012.

Bellemare said its programs successfully change harmful parenting practices more than 95 percent of the time.

"I've seen evidence of what we do," she said. "It's important for me to do something that makes a difference."

Having the resources to do so presents a real challenge.

Cutbacks in federal and state funding have amounted to a 40-percent loss for the Family Partnership Center's budget.

It rankles David Potter, the Family Partnership Center's former executive director.

"We're competing against agencies on a daily basis that are getting funded in lieu of us to fix the problem on the other end as opposed to giving us money to prevent it on the front end," he said. "We have to continually demonstrate the impact of what we're doing and why we're doing it."

Bellemare's predecessor believes she is up to the task.

"She has a passion for these families and an accounting mentality," Potter said. "She has a respect for what needs to be done in terms of support, how to inspire the board of directors to make us stronger, convince the Manatee County government to protect our interests. She's got the big picture."

It's what Bellemare brings home with her almost every night.

"You try to think of ways to help, thinking of innovative ways to get the word out," she said. "It breaks my heart there are families waiting for our services, families that call us in crisis and the fact we can't immediately say we'll be right out. It's tough. It drives me to make sure people know this is important."

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055. Twitter: @vinmannix

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