Maritza C. Roman-Pavajeau
Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston
Please tell us a little bit about how you first heard of CHILDREN AT RISK and how you feel children benefit from the work that CHILDREN AT RISK does in regards to evidence-based parent education in the greater Houston area.
Over the years, I have been working towards a vision of improving the odds for a healthy and secure environment for children. I believe that this can be achieved through mutual cooperation with other organizations and institutions. Since 2003, by participating in meetings and events with the United Way, City of Houston, Texas Children’s Hospital, Houston ISD, and Rice University among other organizations, I encountered CHILDREN AT RISK.
All children are born into a family and from two individuals that are the main providers of their physical, mental and emotional well-being. By evidence-based parent education, regardless of family background, we help children to become healthy adults. Parents play an irreplaceable role in the lives of their children.
What are your other community activities or hobbies outside of The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, Maritza?
I am part of some advisory boards that promote the well-being of families in the community.
I am also active in writing articles, columns and other documents that generate questions and desire for formation. Unfortunately, I do not have time to do much more.
My number one hobby is reading and listening to classical music, especially baroque music. I struggle to make time for it, but it is something I would like to work on.
What has been your favorite accomplishment in your work to better the lives of youth?
For some years, I was a principal in a Catholic school and most of our students were coming from difficult financial backgrounds. A child does not care about who cuts his hair or about who brings food to the table, but he cares a great deal about who holds him when he’s scared, or insecure, or who consoles him when he is sad or who supports him when he does not know how to do his homework.
I had the opportunity to help one the parents of a particular child when they were struggling financially to provide for him and his siblings. I found them a job, I helped for several years to guide them as parents and in their relationship, and then they left the school and I never knew what happened to them. Two years ago, per chance, I encountered that child – already a fine young man – and his mother. He is enrolled in one of the most prestigious private high schools in town. He and his mom, told me more or less these words: ” …you have impacted our lives…, you have changed the course of our lives…, you have supplied us with a fishing rod for an abundant catch…, You have taught me (the mom said) how decisive my role is for my kids…, here is your reward (and she proudly pointed to her son)”. I think that this has been, for me, one of my greatest gifts.
I have many little stories, and in my mind the picture of many small and big smiles!
Briefly explain why you care so much about parent education and why The Archdiocesan Office of Family Life Ministry is incorporating this in to their programs?
As I mentioned before, I deeply believe that parents are irreplaceable. Children who have parental support in numerous areas of their lives are likely to have better heath and development, better academic progress, and make better life choices.
As we know, there are research studies that show facts regarding the impact on children when there is active and positive parental involvement: kids have better health, they tend to earn higher grades, have better social skills, they are more likely to graduate and go continue their education, they have better communication skills when parents are sensitive to their needs and emotions, they also have less unsupervised time to consume alcohol or drugs. As Dr. Shonkoff, Pediatrician at Harvard Graduate School of Education, says about parenting: “The hallmark of (the parental) relationship is the readily observable fact that this special adult is not interchangeable with others.” Teaching parents to parent is crucial in this marvelous adventure and endeavor of forming great future generations that actively contribute to the common good of our society.
The vitality of child-parent relationships is my passion and I will do anything to plant my small seed to make it better.
When you were a child, what did you dream you would be when you grew up?
I had two dreams :
1. I wanted to be an Opera singer and ballet dancer (laugh)
2. After that first dream, I wanted to be a brain surgeon or heart surgeon and operate in Africa.
… Neither, but I guess that now I am servicing with some of the beauty and harmony of an opera and ballet rhythm in the minds and hearts of parents and families, in the mission of converting this world a better one.
God has given me so much that I am thankful for, for that I need and want to give back!
What is your favorite part of seeing CHILDREN AT RISK’s Center for Parenting and Family Well-Being’s mission in action?
There are many areas of the Center for Parenting and Family Well-Being’s mission that I enjoy seeing. Their action is a foundational response to a dangerous precedent that is being set in our American society.
There are legitimate government concerns, because of poor exercise of parental rights resulting in abuse and/or neglect. Therefore, government agencies have been given power to override parental choices, determining the best interest of the child.
The center is creating a “home” for parent education, by establishing the infrastructure necessary to provide quality basic education for parents while at the same time advocating for their rights. The center is empowering parents to take over their natural role successfully. No one, regardless of how well-intentioned they may be, can replace the love and the formation of a parent in the life of a child. I believe that we have parents in the area of Galveston-Houston (to mention a geographical area) who are willing to brave danger and sacrifice, hardship and heartache to ensure the best for their own kids. We need to protect these rights through law and this is the remarkable work that the Center is doing by empowering those parents!
What is one reason someone should give their time, effort and support to children?
As a practicing Catholic, I will respond this question with an answer taken from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part 3, Section 2, Chapter 2: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” and it reads:
“THE FAMILY AND SOCIETY
2207 The family is the original cell of social life. It is the natural society in which husband and wife are called to give themselves in love and in the gift of life. Authority, stability, and a life of relationships within the family constitute the foundations for freedom, security, and fraternity within society. The family is the community in which, from childhood, one can learn moral values, begin to honor God, and make good use of freedom. Family life is an initiation into life in society.”
I think this is a FUNDAMENTAL reason for someone to give their talents, time and effort to help and support parents to educate and form their kids, future parents of future “healthy” children!