Kristine Novak supports parents
KRISTINE NOVAK, parenting education program director for Communities In Schools (CIS) Brunswick County, has dedicated her life to helping others. She says, “I was bullied as a child and did not want to go to school.” Novak can easily relate to children who are going through similar struggles. “These children desperately need support and a self-esteem boost,” she states.
Stepping into her new role in September 2021, Novak supports families all across Brunswick County. She is responsible for implementing, managing, coordinating, and overseeing countywide parenting education. This includes prevention educational services and the facilitation of parental support groups. Her duties include establishing community relationships with other agencies, hiring, training and supporting her staff of six, ensuring that programs are implemented according to state service definitions, and managing data collection for her grant-funded program.
Novak collaborates regularly with Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina and the Department of Social Services, maintaining professional connections to help facilitate warm handoffs of resources to parents.
Because the role has been vacant for two years due to COVID, Novak is working hard to fill the gap created for many families. She says that the biggest challenges facing families today are substance abuse, absence of father figures, anxiety and depression in parents which ultimately transfers to children, and a population of children who do not want to do go to school.
“I am on a mission every day to spread kindness and to let others know they matter, even when they are so lost within themselves. I want to be the light at the end of the tunnel. I want to help change what is broken,” Novak says.
In October, Novak restarted a program for grandparents raising grandchildren. “My goal is to increase grandparents’ adaptive skills and offer strategies to persevere in times of stress or crisis. I hope for an increase of positive interactions between grandchildren and their grands,” she says.
The program offers grandparents the opportunity to have adult conversations without interruption while grandchildren participate in positive play, art projects, and homework help from CIS staff. Novak’s second goal for this year is to develop a similar program for fathers.
Novak brings years of experience into this position. She holds an associate of science degree in human services from Massasoit Community College in Massachusetts and a Bachelor of Science in psychology from Bridgewater State University also in Massachusetts. Working with the Massachusetts Department of Children & Families and the Department of Mental Health Services, she was a social worker and therapeutic mentor to children and adolescents struggling in school and home life and has helped clients with severe mental health conditions stay drug-free and out of hospitals. Most recently and prior to coming to Brunswick County, she worked in Greensboro providing educational services for head start and early head start for three counties.
Novak says her experiences have changed the lens through which she looks at the world. Her lessons learned are many.
“I learned the challenges of teaching children healthy behaviors and un-teaching unhealthy ones. I learned how important attachment is for children and how dramatically it can affect a child when it has been compromised. I learned to look at situations through the eyes of the entire family, meeting people where they are, and helping them get to where they need to be.”
Novak has become the person who the bullied child she once was desperately needed: a mentor, an encourager and a lifesaver. She says, “I always look for the positive in every situation. I will always leave you with a smile.”
To view more of photographer Aris Harding’s work, go to arisharding.com.
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