Safe Harbor opens county chapter

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Gangs, drugs, eating disorders and out-right rebellion &045; a new solution for families arrives in Shelby County on Aug. 31.

Faith based, non-profit Safe Harbor is teaming up with Evangel Presbyterian Church to open a new chapter in Alabaster.

Now, families with troubled adolescents literally have a safe harbor to share their struggles with other people who are seeking counseling for their teens.

&8220;Safe Harbor will be a real encouragement to the city and the surrounding communities in Shelby County,&8221; said Evangel Presbyterian Pastor Jeff Lowman.

Lowman&8217;s wife, Sallie Lowman, who is a marriage and family therapist, will work as the on-site counselor. Mrs. Lowman has worked with Safe Harbor before, and said the key to the program is the holistic approach toward healing and teaching the entire family.

&8220;I&8217;m not aware of many programs that pull both teens and parents in Shelby County. There are treatment programs, and those are necessary sometimes, but not often is the whole family treated.&8221;

Paul Hunter, site development director, explained that Safe Harbor&8217;s philosophy is to &8220;give both the teen and parent courage and strength to do what they need to do. Parents have to stop trying to fix their child and the child has to start facing consequences.&8221;

The program consists of a 12-week course of meetings, which will be held on Thursdays at 7 p.m. at Evangel Presbyterian Church. During a session, families and teens listen to a speaker who teaches and informs them on issues such as substance abuse, codependence, family boundaries and spiritual authority in the home.

The speakers who participate have a wide variety of backgrounds, including school counselors who talk about youth culture, judges who speak on the legal system and a pastor of a church. All speakers have a background in working professionally with families.

&8220;They bring in folks who can give parents very specific answers on the legal system and effects of drugs their teens are using. It&8217;s very practical information help for parents,&8221; Lowman said.

After 45 minutes, families separate and the teens meet with their mentor while the parents meet in small groups. Mentors are volunteers who offer teens a safe place to open up about the their problems.

Though typically volunteers are parents whose own children have been through trials, Lowman said.

&8220;They are mostly just people who love teenagers. They are committing to walk with the teenage through the program.&8221;

The Safe Harbor program generally takes families more than one course to bring full healing.

But Mrs. Lowman said, &8220;When teens see how parents are trying to better themselves as a parent, that communicates tremendously to the them that their parents love them enough to do that for them.&8221;