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Facilitator Spotlight: Cristina Pacano

Parenting Journey

“I will not teach or love or show you anything perfectly, but I will let you see me, and I will always hold sacred the gift of seeing you. Truly, deeply seeing you”. – Brene Brown

These mindful words are more than just Parenting Journey Senior Trainer and Facilitator Cristina Pachano’s email signature. They perfectly capture her personal philosophy towards her parent support work. Cristina believes that by encouraging the parents she works with to embrace both their imperfections and strengths she empowers them to be their true selves.

Of course this attitude didn’t develop overnight, but over the course of 17 years of experience in the mental health field. Cristina’s career began as an international graduate student in Boston College’s Counselling program, arriving to America from Venezuela in 1998. This program required field practice and Cristina found herself at an intern retreat at Parenting Journey, or rather The Family Center as it was known then. Originally, this internship was only supposed to last one year, but one year swiftly became 17.

What kept her at Parenting Journey for so long is our organizational philosophy that emphasizes respecting clients both in theory and practice. “Parenting Journey’s strength-based approach is much more optimistic and consequently more inviting, especially to clients with traumatic pasts and presents”, Cristina states. This baseline of positivity is contagious and allows clients to believe that change is possible and take actions that follow suit. Cristina has witnessed numerous clients rise above their circumstances to foster stronger relationships with their children, overcome life threatening illnesses and resolve immigration issues, among other positive changes. She feels blessed to have a job that not only fosters hope and change in her clients but also in herself. Cristina has infused Parenting Journey’s strengths-based spirit into all aspects of her life, including her own parenting. She makes it a point to “focus on my strengths and not compare myself to other parents, since comparison takes my concentration away from what I can do and what I’m capable of.”

And Cristina is capable of quite a lot. In fact she created one of Parenting Journey’s trademark programs, Parenting in America. Parenting in America helps immigrant parents navigate the issues associated with raising bicultural children. Cristina realized that was a definite need for this curriculum after commiserating with co-workers, Luciana Abella, and Maude LaRoche about their immigrant clients who were really struggling to understand American cultural norms. They felt a moral and professional obligation to help these parents, especially since their help and knowledge could be the difference between a parent getting in legal trouble or their children having a healthy, adaptive life.

With that conviction in mind, Cristina, Luciana, and Maude went to work crafting Parenting in America. Parenting in America not only “inducted “Latino immigrants into American cultural also highlighted the strengths of their native culture as well. The program launched in 2003. In the following years, Cristina has run the program over 40 times, helping more than 500 Latino immigrant parents see themselves and their potential. Even the parents with the biggest initial roadblocks like Marisol. Marisol was a semi-literate Mexican immigrant who very much adhered to traditional Latino family structures with children deferential to adults. She was very afraid of the liberal education her children were about to receive. She believed that this education encouraged children to become defiant and believe that they were equal to adults. With Cristina’s help, however, Marisol realized that she could have a say in her children’s education. She became a very active member of the PTA at her children’s school, and even encouraged other immigrant parents to join.

Cristina hopes to foster even more of these transformative moments through the Facilitator Training Program. March 2016 marks the first time that Parenting Journey offered the Parenting in America curricula to professionals. This training was being led by none other than the PIA master herself, Cristina. Cristina envisions these professionals as bees of sorts, bringing back the sweet nectar of Parenting Journey to their home agencies.