Beginning this month, the Fayette County Juvenile Court is utilizing “The Parent Project” as a new tool to help steer juveniles in the court system onto the right path.
The Parent Project is a parent training program endorsed by the Supreme Court of Ohio and is the largest court-mandated juvenile diversion program in the country. It’s a 10-week program in which participating parents will learn step-by-step methods to use at home in dealing with adolescents that have challenging destructive behaviors, attitude and conduct.
“There’s been a lot of research and a lot of effort put in to try to come up with a better way to deal with juveniles who display these behaviors,” said Fayette County Probate/Juvenile Court Judge David Bender. “A lot of this behavior comes from mental health issues more than anything else. So one of the programs they’ve come up with, and the Supreme Court is helping to sponsor this, is the Parent Project. Basically, it’s an intense parenting course that we send the parents through in certain cases.”
Topics to be covered include arguing and family conflict, early teen sexuality, drug use, domestic violence, habitual truancy, social media issues, sexting, teen violence and bullying. Parents will be encouraged to try different manners of communication with their children that will hopefully assist in resolving many of these issues at home, according to Bender.
“As an example, if you have Children Services involved in your family and they remove children from your home temporarily. One of the normal requirements that they have is to complete parenting classes. But the classes with the Parent Project are a little more intense. We’re going to try it out and see how it goes. It’s been very successful in many places. We’re trying to target kids who are having problems, such as their parents can’t wake them up to go to school. We will be trying to divert kids who just came into the system….trying to fix the problem right off the bat so they don’t go back in the system. When the situation is appropriate, I will refer the parents to the Parent Project, where they’ll be expected to work with the people that we’ve trained through the Supreme Court training.”
The court has a Parent Project certified trainer on-staff who will manage the problem. The first class will be no more than 10 to 12 parents, but Bender believes the program will grow very quickly.
“We’re going to give it a shot,” said Bender. “It is something that I will order from the bench in the appropriate cases. The parents don’t have an option once I order it. Now, if you have a work schedule we need to work around, I’ll certainly work with you on that. I don’t want to take away anyone’s job from them.”
Some of the main concepts that will be taught to parents are: understanding our children, addressing problematic behavior, drug use, out-of-control children, relationships, finding help and support, managing conflict, active listening, building positive self-concepts, consistency, expectations, standards, values and promoting family unity.
The Parent Project was developed by law enforcement and parents, and has been around nationally for 30 years. It has been the subject of numerous academic studies, which consistently show significant improvement in parental knowledge and skills in reducing destructive behaviors of kids, and an increase expression of love in the home, according to officials.
Judge Bender said he’s excited about the opportunity to present this program to Fayette County families.
“It’s a better way to communicate with these kids because many kids just have different attitudes today,” Bender said. “The hard line approach works with some of them, but not with all of them. We’re hoping that this training will help the parents better deal with it and be able to resolve issues early on. If we can make a difference for just a few families, it will be worth it.”