Commissioner Rowland lets parents know county is ready to lend a hand
Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland was on mission Friday night, slapping magnets on bathroom stalls, leaving the trinkets on restaurant tables and even smacking them onto the lockers at a local bowling alley.
After not getting much response to a 24-7 hot line aimed at helping parents cope with children in tricky situations, Rowland and a band of other volunteers in the next few days plan to plaster the county with the informational magnets.
“We figured we needed to go where the parents are, that’s why we’re here,” Rowland said during the start of her shift Friday night at Chuck E Cheese.
As she weaved through the booths, Rowland placed magnets on tables and offered some to a family sitting down to pizza. She left some of what she called “removable graffiti” on the edge of a video game.
The hot line, which is staffed by volunteers, is an outlet for parents to blow off steam or get advice about child rearing in the hopes that those parents don’t lash out in anger toward their children, possibly causing harm.
The conversations are confidential, and calling the line will not prompt action from the Department of Human Services.
Rowland said the campaign to advertise the hot line is not geared so much toward prevention of child abuse as it is toward parental advice.
It’s also not intended as a way for county officials to spy on parents and plot to take away their children, a common misconception of the role of DHS.
However, folks who do call the line and who are seeking county services can be referred to the appropriate agency.
“Parenting is tough,” Rowland said. “Who do you call when it’s 2 a.m. and your child won’t stop screaming?”
Mesa County initially ordered 5,500 magnets for the campaign, but those were quickly distributed. For the latest effort, officials secured 20,000 more magnets. They feature a photo of a spunky toddler eating spaghetti and getting the food all over his face and hair.
Joann Coleman was just sitting down to dinner with her son and his family when Rowland passed through GJ Scores, 2445 F 3/8 Road. Rowland had placed the magnets on the vending machines and the lockers.
Coleman said she can empathize with parents who don’t have the extended family networks that used to be commonplace. Coleman lives next door to her son and other family members live nearby, so parents can rely on each other if one needs a break from a frustrating situation.
“These young girls get overwhelmed because they don’t get a break,” she said of young mothers without a family network. “I think families these days are so scattered.”
Rowland said county officials had advertised the campaign on bus stop benches, billboards and even on placemats at McDonald’s. Chevron had offered to pay for advertising on benches this year, but later withdrew the offer, Rowland said.
Distributing the information by hand seemed a less expensive solution, with a larger possibility of placing the info directly into the hands of parents of young children. While Rowland’s duty was to cover the Mesa Mall area, others plan to scatter around the Grand Valley.
But it’s unclear how successful the distribution efforts will be. A manager at Taco Bell, 2428 U.S. Highway 6&50, told Rowland she would have to contact the corporate office to distribute the items there. She was soon asked by another employee to leave the parking lot while being videotaped by a reporter for this story.
Rowland moved onto the next location on her list.
“It’s a pretty well-kept secret,” she said of the hot line. “Sometimes getting tips on parenting can make a difference, especially in tough economic times.”