Protecting Our Children: Parent mentors help families

Denver human services DPALS program
Posted at 11:26 AM, Apr 21, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-21 13:28:22-04

DENVER -- Parenting is challenging enough, without additional problems like addiction or poverty. That's why Denver Human Servicesis trying to help parents who are at risk of losing their kids. "Denver Parent Advocates Lending Support", or DPALS, provides mentors to parents who are currently going through the child welfare system.

Not only are the mentors parents themselves, but they've gone through the exact same situation in the past. So they can relate and help other parents understand the process.

"When someone tells you they’re going to take your children away it’s the scariest, worst thing in the world," says Shawna Darling. She battled an addiction years ago, that threatened to separate her from her kids.

Her husband Calder Darling also dealt with addiction in his first marriage, and nearly lost his kids.

"Back then what I would have liked to have heard is you’re just as important in this as the mother is, and what can we do to get you services and get you cleaned up so we can get your kids back in your care," says Darling.

That’s what the Darlings do for other parents now.  They both volunteer with the DPALS program. They mentor other parents who are going through the child welfare system, help them find resources, or treatment for addictions, and even advocate for them in court.

"We all know that parenting can be challenging from time to time," says Joe Homlar, a director with the Denver Human Services Department. "There’s a lot of pressures, a lot of struggles families may have, so we want to make sure we’re available to help," says Homlar.

Shawna and Calder Darling both overcame their addictions. When they married in 2015, they combined their families. They now have 8 kids at home. They say the kids are proud of what their parents do for other families.

The Darlings say it is a big time commitment, but that giving back to other families makes their family even stronger.

April is Child Abuse Prevention month, and the Denver Human Services Department has multiple events and resources to support families and raise awareness.


Nicole Brady anchors the First Alert breaking news desk during Denver7 morning's news from 4:30 to 7 a.m. and covers news throughout the community. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.