The Dodge County Parenting Project started partially due to a young girl.
Lawyer and project creator Mickale Carter was assigned to the girl’s case. Due to circumstances, the girl’s mother was no longer in her life, and she was being placed with her father, who had previously been unable to be a part of her life.
Gene Kirschbaum, Carter’s husband, said the man had never been a parent before and suddenly had a daughter.
“He just needed some help with all those girl issues,” Kirschbaum said.
“Not just girl issues, general parenting issues,” Carter added. “He made me aware of the need, but not just for him. The need is great in Dodge County.”
The project offers seminars and support for parents who are having problems communicating with their child’s other parent (during or after a divorce or separation); are stepparents; have a child who has begun misbehaving since a breakup or divorce; have a child who is having trouble with drug, alcohol or bed wetting; are new parents and don’t have a parenting support network; have a child who is getting into trouble at school or doesn’t seem to fit in.
The project consists of three parts; a transparenting seminar, a parenting support group and one-on-one mentors. The first seminar has a $35 fee. Everything else is funded by donations.
The cost of running the program for one year is approximately $5,000.
After a friend sent them a book featuring photos of their beaver statue in various costumes, Carter and Kirschbaum decided to raise funds by creating and selling a calendar featuring the beaver carved on a stump in their front yard. (They dress it up weekly in recognition of various people and holidays),
“We’re hoping that this is going to have some legs, that this project is going to continue on and on, and this is a fundraiser that we can use every year, until people get sick of the beaver,” Kirshbaum said.
“Faces of the Beav” can be purchased for $10 at the Beaver Dam Family Center, 609 Gould St., until Dec. 1. Four dollars of the profit goes to the family center, home of the Beaver Dam Hockey Association and the Swan City Skaters; $4 goes to the Dodge County Parenting Project and the other $2 pays for the cost of printing.
Carter said that after Dec. 1, they may have another non-profit organization splitting the proceeds in exchange for selling the calendars.
One of the main donors, especially when it came to the start-up costs, was the Beaver Dam Rotary Club, which Carter credits for being the idea’s catalyst.
Carter said that last year, the theme for the Rotary project was “Peace through service” and she was put in charge of finding a project.
“Then I just started thinking and thinking, where are the wars? Where’s the unrest in Dodge County? In my world, the unrest is feuding parents — parents fighting over their kids. Then the kids are the collateral damage in this war between these two people,” Carter said.
The parenting project came out of that realization and Rotary donated $1,400, which helped cover many of the costs.
Carter said she sees the project as being an opportunity for self improvement, like any other class.
“We want to catch people who just have a sense that they’re uncomfortable. They know that they’re not perfect parents,” Carter said. “I’m hoping that this would be that kind of program where there is no stigma.”
Stepparents, she believes, could also benefit from the support.
“I’m a stepparent. I know it’s hard,” Carter said. “You never know quite where you fit in their world. I see step-parents in my work, where the stepparent is doing everything. The kid goes with dad and the stepmom does everything — cooks their meals, washes their clothes, takes care of them, does everything, and yet, the step-parent in the legal system has no say in anything. It’s like they don’t exist. Yet they’re the main caregiver. I know that’s very frustrating.”
She said another group that she hopes could be helped through the program is young parents who don’t have family to call on, for whatever reason.
“The number of people who are alone, young kids who, for whatever reason, don’t have a family network,” Carter said, “Those are the people that have the most trouble that I see, because they don’t have anybody they can talk to. Nobody to help them solve whatever problem that they’re having. When I was young there was always a network of somebody. There was some relative who had had that problem.”
She said for a new parent alone and without guidance, just having somebody else who has been through the same things can be a huge benefit.
For more information on the Dodge County Parenting Project, call Carter at (920) 219-9520 or email DodgeCountyParentingProject@gmail.com. For more information on signing up for a TransParenting seminar, call (920) 887-3171.
“When the court has made the determination that a child is in need of protection, then they bring out the big guns. Then they’ve got all kinds of parenting support,” Carter said. “Those people, they get all kinds of support. But if you haven’t done horrible things to your children, then you’re just on your own. You’re struggling as a parent, but you’re just on your own. That’s what I thought, there’s a big void in Dodge County. We need something for this.”