Samara is an agency dedicated to strengthening families. Many of our parents have experienced trauma and loss in their childhoods. We enable them to develop the personal strengths to move beyond their own hurt and to effectively raise their children.
Most parenting classes appeal to the intellect and are not designed to reach parents who have grown up in difficult circumstances. Our program is intensive. Our approach is relational and experiential. We create an environment of emotional safety and warmth that allows parents to reflect on their own experiences and open themselves to new ideas and unfamiliar concepts. Many begin to take responsibility for their own parenting as they recognize their children as unique, valued individuals.
Jean Heigel forged a body of work in the field of parenting over many years’ experience working with foster children and at-risk families in Lancaster County, developing and teaching multiple courses in a variety of settings. Raised on a working farm, Jean’s upbringing was informed by Brethren progressive/intellectual thought and classical piano studies. She tirelessly researched and wrote voluminous curriculum and teaching materials, often in direct response to questions and challenges that arose in her classes. Jean possesses a rare quality of detachment from her contributions. Her purpose has been to serve children through helping their parents; to this end, she has subjected her work to ongoing scrutiny, evaluation, and revision.
Pam Haddad was employed as a Child Protective Service worker in Lehigh County, PA where she conducted investigations of child physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, severe neglect and medical neglect. She worked under the supervision of an extraordinary colleague who taught her analytical skills and the ability to problem solve in complex and often gray circumstances. Later, as a family based therapist, Pam provided in-home intensive family and individual therapy with high risk families, using an Eco-Systemic Family Structural Approach. She noticed that, almost without exception, parents wanted their children to be successful and to feel loved; but because of their own experiences of trauma, abuse, neglect or abandonment, many lacked the emotional resources, knowledge and skills to parent effectively.
Pam, in collaboration with Jean, created and delivered a unique course to small groups of parents, referred to them by county Child Protective Services and often court mandated to attend. During class time, their children received care from play workers. The program included a family meal and an interactive circle time led by Jean or Pam for the children and their parents. The program offered an immersion-style study of child development, communication, positive parent/child relationships and respectful discipline. The sessions consisted of a traditional classroom component as well as creative/dynamic/artistic activities (“nurture”). Pam infused elements of Waldorf education into both the adult and child programs to include storytelling, verse, singing, painting, drawing, and movement. The program was refined and enhanced over successive ten week sessions; both referring and sponsoring agencies recognized its potential to deliver significantly superior outcomes to the target population as compared to mainstream parenting programs.
Pam established a nonprofit agency to further develop the pedagogy and scope of the work. After obtaining her MSW degree at the University of Pennsylvania, she opened Samara: the Center for Individual and Family Growth in 2008.