New Group Helps Parents and Kids Connect


Vickie Wessler cares for her adopted daughter and three foster children. Her husband works out of town, so she is essentially a single parent. The three older children have been in individual play therapy, but are not making progress. It’s difficult for her to schedule counseling appointments back to back with the children’s busy schedule. And if they occur simultaneously, she’s not able to participate in each session–which is needed to encourage attachment.

Our new parenting group will allow Mrs. Wessler to learn specific parenting skills to help her children overcome negative behaviors, like food hoarding, bed wetting, anger outbursts, and poor school performance.

If left untreated, the children’s adoption could be at risk and they could experience further negative life outcomes. Through the support group, Mrs. Wessler can change the course of their lives, and it will not be up to the community or a future employer to pay the high cost of treating adults with untreated mental health needs.

Like Vickie’s kids, children who come to Family Service of Roanoke Valley often have behavioral issues as a result of negative life experiences.

Sometimes they have experienced neglect, violence, and physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. Often they have been removed from their birth home and are living in a foster or adoptive home.

Parents of children struggling emotionally need extra support.

A new parenting group is available to give them this support and teach them therapeutic skills they can use at home to connect with their children. Families who participate will experience:

  • increased parental empathy toward their children
  • reduced negative behaviors in children
  • reduced parental stress
  • improved overall family functioning

YOU can help! Donate toy kits for participating families to take home with them so they can practice the skills they learn to connect and care for their child. These are for families who are at risk of being separated or who have been separated because of trauma, abuse, neglect–or for those who are experiencing another type of family disruption.

Caring for children who have experienced trauma comes with a number of challenges, and can leave parents and caregivers frustrated, stressed, and exhausted. 

To meet the growing needs of child victims of trauma in the Roanoke community, Family Service established the Play Therapy Institute in 2016 with support from the Victims of Crime Act. We were able to expand play therapy treatment for children who have witnessed violence or who have experienced abuse or neglect.

This year, the Play Therapy Institute is launching a pilot program to serve parents and caregivers of child victims of abuse and neglect, called Child Parent Relationship Therapy.

Child Parent Relationship Therapy (CPRT) is a filial therapy program structured as a parenting support group. The CPRT group is structured to include 6 to 8 families over the course of a 10-week program and seeks to provide parents and caregivers with the tools necessary to engage their child in at-home therapeutic play. 

Through the CPRT curriculum, parents will learn how children use the language of play to communicate and process emotions and will gain skills like reflective responding, appropriate limit-setting, and healthy choice-giving.  Parents will commit to at-home child-centered play sessions with their child for thirty minutes each week.  Additionally, each parent will have a play session with their child recorded once during the 10-week program, for feedback and discussion within the supportive group format. 

The inaugural CPRT group at Family Service is set to begin in February and will meet for 10 weeks. Additional private support will be needed to continue CPRT after the pilot group, to provide supplies, and make the group accessible to more parents in our community.