Archive | April 2014

Parenting Education Programs and Mandated Parents in United States of America

Parenting  Education Programs (PEPs) in the US are designed to preserve family, promote family reunification, builds on family strengths to care for children, and enhance child well-being: address children’s physical health, mental health, and education needs and ensure that “families have enhanced capacity to provide for their children’s needs” (Child Welfare Act 1980, P.L. 96-272). In addition, PEPs are mandatory in forty-six states in the US intended to improve children’s adjustment to the separation and/or divorce of their parents (Sigal, Sandler, Wolchik, and Braver, 2008; Pollet and Lombreglia, 2008). It is estimated that about 850,000 families in the U.S. participate in voluntary or court-mandated parent education programs each year (Johnson, Stone, Lou, Ling, Claassen, & Austin 2006).

Mandated parents are primary care givers or parents of children authorized by law or the court system to attending parenting programs conducted in several states across US. According to  (U.S. DHHS data cited by Barth et al., 2005), about 400,000 parents in the child welfare services system participate in voluntary or mandated parent training each year. The three categories of parents, families or primary care givers mandated to attend parenting programs include:

Mandatory parenting education for a voluntary role

                            This category includes the training of foster and adoptive parents. Individuals who express an interest in adopting or fostering children are required to attend training in order to gain legal caregiver status. Federal guidelines require foster parents to participate in training programs as part of the licensing process, and that requirement is supported by legislation in all but two states (Chamberlain et al., 2008; Dorsey et al., 2008). Laws differ in the various states but individuals should be at least 21 years to be eligible for being a foster parent. Moreover, foster parents must pass criminal and Child Protective Services (CPS) background checks, and they must have a regular source of income (Bigner, 2010). The t types of foster care include: Traditional/regular foster care – is the provision of basic care and support for children on their way to permanent placements, while “treatment foster care” is designed for the needs of behaviorally disturbed children and youth and includes additional training and financial support for the foster parents (Dorsey et al., 2008). In 2008, there were 463,000 children in foster care in the United States, and 123,000 children were adopted (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [USDHHS], 2009). In 2003, there were 155,355 non-relative foster homes licensed to care for those children (Van Camp, 2004), but there is a chronic shortage of placements available for children who need such care.

Education for risky family situations

This category of parents and families mandated for parenting education includes divorcing couples. Some judicial provinces in the US have a blanket mandate that involves all couples with children in a particular municipality, county, or state who are filing for a divorce must participate in a PEP. Other mandates are issued only to divorcing couples with contested custody or visitation cases. In other cases, judges may issue individual mandates to couples those who are judged to be at risk for family conflict or repeated court involvement (Pollet & Lombreglia, 2008). In 2009 an estimated 1,100,401 children under 18 in the U.S. lived with parents who became divorced that year (U.S. Census Bureau, 2011). Twenty nine percent (29%) of those parents are men and 30% are women between the ages of 35 and 44 years. Also, 64% of these parents or families are White, non-Hispanic (Pollet & Lombreglia, 2008). Also, a survey found that 65% of divorcing parent programs are comprised of mandated attendees (Cambron et al., 2000). The high levels of conflict and aggression associated with the minority of divorcing couples/parent remains the primary concern of many courts and community agencies and has led to the rapid growth of mandated family life or PEPs in the US Pollet & Lombreglia, 2008).

                        Mandated education for parents or families judged as inadequate

                          Probation departments or judges may require parents who are found to be abusive and/ or neglectful of their children to participate in PEPs. Other families in this category are parents involved in domestic violence cases or parents of children in the juvenile justice system (Judith A. Myers-Walls, 2008). Parents may need to complete PEP in order to maintain or regain custody of their children or sometimes the education is an alternative to a fine or incarceration. The National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, (2010) stated that, in 2008, CPS workers investigated 2 million cases of child abuse and neglect involving 3.7 million children across the US. It is also reported that about 1,740 children died in 2008 as result of maltreatment. Children under 1 year of age were the most common victims. Sixty percent (60%) of the cases were due to neglect. About 80% of the perpetrators were found to be the child’s parents and 90% were the biological parents, and slightly more than 75% were under age 40 (National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, (DHHS), 2010).

                      The realities of mandated parents.

Divorcing couples involve in PEPs are faced with financial strain, relocation of at least one family member, anger, perceptions of failure, loss, defeat and children are caught up in the middle of these parents. Economic hardship caused parents to be less supportive of their children. (Barrera et al., 2002; Pollet & Lombreglia, 2008). In addition, parents come with diverse risk and socio-cultural factors such as family stress and maternal distress (Winslow, Bonds, Wolchik, Sandler and Braver, 2009). According to Pollet & Lombreglia, (2008), many parents who divorced in 2008 especially the women lived under the poverty level: 11% of men and 22% of women. Furthermore, other researchers stated that mandated parent also bring with them low income earning, lack of transport and child care; unemployment and unstable work schedules; maternal distress, homelessness, inadequate understanding of the legal system, mistrust in service providers and varying degrees of mental issues (Coatsworth et al., 2006; Cunningham et al., 2000; Haggerty et al., 2002).

Impact of Parenting Education Programs

Most PEPs for divorcing parents contribute to lowering parental conflict and improving child outcomes while those for abusive parents are focus on teaching developmental stages and improving child rearing competencies and techniques for managing or altering children’s inappropriate behavior and thereby attempting to reduce the likelihood that the child will experience more negative outcomes (Incredible Years, 2009; McMahon, 2006). Parents indicated that they learned something new and that they appreciated the program (Arbuthnot & Gordon, 1996; Brandon, 2006; Whitehurst, O’Keefe, & Wilson, 2008). Parents reports that they have changed their behavior, were not sending messages to the other parent through the children and not fighting or arguing in front of the children (Brandon, 2006), saying they have a more positive relationship with the other parent (Whitehurst et al., 2008), or adjusting to the divorce better after the program (Pollet & Lombreglia, 2008). Whitehurst and colleagues (2008) found that parents who participated in PEPs rated their relationships more positively, improved their co-parenting abilities more, and more successfully lowered their maladaptive behaviors.

                       The Challenge.           

Notwithstanding the impact made by PEPs conducted in different part of the US, they are mostly delivered to comply with federal policy goals of promoting family strength and child wellbeing without regard to the specific needs of the parent or child (Sheryl Dicker, 2010).  PEPs are often “one-size-fits-all” and therefore do not address the varying needs of parents because they mostly only have a single focus (Katherine A., Beckmann, Jane Knitzer, Janice, Cooper, Sheryl Dicker, 2010).


Various researchers submitted that PEPs should be more comprehensively designed to assess and seek to address the plethora of other needs of mandated parents if conflicts, mental issues and child maltreatment and abuse are to be eliminated and or minimized among divorcing and abusive mandated parents (Myers-Walls et al., 2009). Barth et al., (2005) stated that mandated parents should be thoroughly assessed to understand the underlying causes of their problems to better be able to serve them. Shannon (n.d.) stated that PEPs aimed at abusive and neglectful parents and parents of children in the juvenile justice system should incorporate the following best practices to prevent child abuse

a. Target as many risk factors affecting the child and parent

b. Impact knowledge, attitudes, skills, and aspirations of participants.

c. Improve the quality of the leaders and parent educators is critical

d. Work with other agencies as appropriate to facilitate accurate referral to increase access to other needed services

e. Tailor the services to meet the particular needs of individual participants as appropriate

In relation to the above, my submission is that both federal and state governments need to collaborate with agencies providing PEP services and other community resources providing needed services to revise the PEP curricula to cater for the above mention recommendation if PEPs are to be holistic and meet the needs of mandated parents.

Please note that the words in the reference section adds up to the total of words shown in this blog.


Barth, R. P., Landsverk, J., Chamberlain, P., Reid, J. B., Rolls, J. A., Hurlburt, M. S., (2005). Parent-training    programs in child welfare services: Planning for a more evidence-based approach to serving biological parents. Research on Social Work Practice, 15(5), 353–371.

Barlow, J.; Coren, E.; Stewart-Brown, S. (2009). Parent-training programs for Improving maternal psychosocial health Review). The Cochrane Library, II.

Cooper, J.; Masi, R.; Dababnah, S.; Aratani, Y.; Knitzer, J., (2007). Unclaimed children revisited working paper No. 2: strengthening policies to support children, youth, and families who experience trauma. New York, NY: National Center for Children in Poverty, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.

Barth, R. P., Landsverk, J., Chamberlain, P., Reid, J. B., Rolls, J. A., Hurlburt, M. S., (2005). Parent-training programs in  child welfare services: Planning for a more evidence-based approach to serving biological parents. Research on  Social Work Practice, 15(5), 353–371.

Barlow, J.; Coren, E.; Stewart-Brown, S. 2009. Parent-training Programs for Improving maternal psychosocial health (Review). The Cochrane Library, II.

Cooper, J.; Masi, R.; Dababnah, S.; Aratani, Y.; Knitzer, J.,  (2007). Unclaimed children revisited working paper No. 2: strengthening policies to support children, youth, and families who experience trauma. New York, NY: National Center for Children in Poverty, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.

U.S. Census Bureau. (2011). Marital events of American: 2009: American community survey reports. Retrieved fro

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2009).  Adoption and foster care analysis and reporting system (AFCARS) FY 2008 data (October 1, 2007 through September 30, 2008). Retrieved from:

This entry was posted on April 14, 2014. 1 Comment

Child Labor: A Menace on Sierra Leonean Children

Child Labor in Sierra Leone

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO) website, definitions of Child labour slated for abolition falls into the following three categories:

(1)  Labour that is performed by a child who is under the minimum age specified for that kind of work (as defined by national legislation, in accordance with accepted international standards), and that is thus likely to impede the child’s education and full development.

(2)  Labour that jeopardizes the physical, mental or moral well-being of a child, either because of its nature or because of the conditions in which it is carried out, known as hazardous work.

(3)  The unconditional worst forms of child labour, which are internationally defined as slavery, trafficking, debt bondage and other forms of forced labour, forced recruitment of children for use in armed conflict, prostitution and pornography, and illicit activities.

Children in Sierra Leone are engaged in the worst forms of child labor, particularly dangerous activities in the agriculture and in the mining sectors (U.S. Embassy, 2012). Reports indicate that child labor in agriculture is pervasive in rural areas, including the production of coffee, cocoa and palm oil, with children as young as age 5 working in the fields. (US Embassy, 2010; US Department of State, 2011; Macro International Inc., 2008; & Dunstan, S. Farmer Perceptions, 2009). Children in Sierra Leone are engaged in dangerous activities in agriculture. Children working in agriculture may use dangerous tools, carry heavy loads, and apply harmful pesticides. (International Labour Organization, 2011)

Thousands of children in Sierra Leone, primarily boys ages 10 and 17 years, work in alluvial diamond mines (International Human Rights Clinic, 2009). Alluvial diamond mining relies on labor-intensive methods to locate diamonds, such as digging and sifting through mud and sand.( U.S. Geological Survey, 2011) The mining is usually performed by informal and small-scale mining operations that operate outside the regulatory framework (Bea M, A Hatloy, 2008).

Children engaged in alluvial diamond mining undertake hazardous activities, such as repeatedly shoveling and transporting gravel, and are exposed to infectious and mosquito-borne diseases that thrive in alluvial mining areas. (Bea M, A Hatloy, 2008). The children suffer back and chest pain and fatigue as a result of the activities they perform. Children also risk injury and death from mine pits collapsing (International Human Rights Clinic, 2009). One study found that nearly half of all child miners in the Kono District, the hub of Sierra Leonean diamond mining, work 8 to 10 hours per day, while more than half work at least 6 days a week (International Human Rights Clinic, 2009). Although mine owners and operators typically do not employ girls or children under age 10 in direct mining activities, the mining sector utilizes these two groups in support roles. Young boys in this group generally provide food and water and take responsibility for less strenuous mining activities, while girls in support roles often work as vendors, hawking items such as drinks and cigarettes. (Bea M, A Hatloy, 2008).

See video for child mining

Moreover, children in Sierra Leone are also engaged in stone crushing in granite quarries in unsafe and unhealthy labor conditions, including carrying heavy loads and working long hours. (Macro International, 2008). Children break granite rocks into gravel and sell it for use in cement. Children sustain injuries including broken bones from falls, leg and toe injuries from using mallets and hammers, and cuts and eye injuries from gravel shards. (Campbell, G., 2013).

See video for child rock harvesting

In large dump sites in Freetown, children as young as age 10 are engaged in digging and gathering metal scraps and recyclable material, among other items(U.S. Embassy, 2012; & 2013). Reports indicate that children frequent dump sites, in which they are exposed to unhealthy and dangerous labor conditions, including chemicals, and risk injury (Fofana, L., 2012)

Photo of children in dump sites

In addition, children are also engaged in the fishing industry notwithstanding the importance of this activity.( U.S Embassy, 2012 & Macro International, 2008; ). Regardless of the limited evidence that exists, Macro International, (2008) suggests that the worst forms of child labor are used in the production of particular types of fish, including snapper, mackerel, and herring. In addition to performing tasks, such as mending nets, the report also notes that children engage in the fishing industry also works on boats to fish in the open sea for several days in a row. (FAO-ILO, 2011 & Macro International, 2008). Fishing exposes children to risks, including the risk of drowning and working in cramped and unsanitary shipping vessels. (U.S. Department of State, 2009).

Regardless of the above labour issues undermining the wellbeing of children, the U.S Embassy, (2012) report indicate that Sierra Leonean children are engaged in domestic labor that commonly involves exposure to physical and sexual exploitation by their employers. Furthermore, Sierra Leone is classified as a source, transit, and destination country for children trafficked for the purpose of forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation. (U.S. Department of State, 2009). U.S. Embassy (2011 & 2012) reports states that majority of children are trafficked from rural provinces or refugee communities to urban and mining areas and that children from Nigeria, The Gambia, Côte d’Ivoire, and Guinea may be trafficked to Sierra Leone for forced begging, forced labor, and commercial sexual exploitation. (U.S. Department of State 2012). Sierra Leone has a large number of street children as a result of the 11-year civil war that ended in 2002. (IRIN, 2011,; & ILO 2012) There are reports of children working on the streets, but specific information on hazards is unknown but it is believed that some of these children may be exploited into commercial sex work. (U.S. Department of State, 2011 #246; U.S. Embassy- Freetown, 2013, #173).

Causes and effects of Child Labour

Child labour in Sierra Lone is mostly due to cultural and tradition practices, the effects of the 10 years of civil war and entrenched poverty. The Minister of Employment ascertains this, Labour and Social Security, Hon. Minkailu Mansaray who said in an interview “poverty has been identified as one of the root causes of child labour”.  He also stated that some traditional concepts have also been identified as a problem leading to child labour. He further stated that “child labour has a very negative impact on the economic, social and political development of Sierra Leone because it allows children to suffer under worst conditions, prostitution, gang robbery and other crimes in society,”

Legal framework on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

In response to the awful situation above, the Government of Sierra Leone have several legislations in place to combat child labour. The Child Rights Act, 2007, which sets the minimum, age for employment at 15 years. The Act also states that children must either be age 15 or have completed basic education before entering into an apprenticeship in either the formal or informal sector. Children are also prohibited from performing night work between the hours of 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. (The Child Right Act, 2007). The law allows children ages 13 and older to engage in light work and prohibits children under age 18 from being employed in hazardous work, defined as work that is dangerous to a child’s health, safety, or morals. The law identifies the following activities as hazardous: seafaring; mining and quarrying; carrying heavy loads; and working in bars, in places in which machines are used, and in environments in which chemicals are produced or used. (Child Right Act, 2007). The penalty for employing children in hazardous work or violating the age restrictions under the Child Rights Act is a fine or a prison sentence of up to 2 years( U.S. Embassy Freetown, 2013; Child Right Act, 2007).  The Child Rights Act stipulates that the Government will intervene to protect children who are forced to beg or are exposed to moral or physical danger.

Also, the Constitution of Sierra Leone prohibits forced and compulsory labor (Government of Sierra Leone , 1991). The Anti-Human Trafficking Act, (2005) criminalizes all forms of human trafficking and the commercial sexual exploitation of children, including profiting from child pornography and prostitution. Regardless of the robust legislations, children continue to carry the burden to hard and hazardous labour in the country.

Social Programs Interventions to prevent and or eliminate Worst Forms of Child Labor

The Sierra Leone government with support from UNICEF and USAID, has prioritized and implementing several programs to curb child labour. Such programs include: improving access and to education, which has narrowed the gender enrollment gap at the primary school (IMF, 2011). The Government of Sierra Leone increased the number of teachers and awarded grants to girls and the disabled attending secondary school and university; it also investigated and prosecuted Ministry of Education personnel engaged in corrupt practices. (Human Right Watch 2011). The government with WFP, implements a school-feeding program that targets 300,000 children (IMF, 2008). Also, the MSWGCA partners with World Hope International to combat child trafficking and forced child labor in Sierra Leone in addition to raising public awareness on child trafficking. The government also supports shelters that house child victims of forced labor and trafficking. However, these shelters do not provide victims with long-term support, and child victims may live with social workers. (UN Committee on the Right of the Child, 2011). The Government supports centers for street children to receive psychological support, medical care, vocational training, and help in locating their families.

In addition, the government supports the UNDP-funded Youth Employment and Empowerment Program to strengthen national policy, strategy, and coordination for youth employment. The Youth Employment Network, which includes a partnership between the UN, ILO and the World Bank, manages the Youth to Youth Fund for youth-led organizations to pilot innovative, small-scale youth entrepreneurship projects (ILO, 2010). The youth employment, education, and agriculture programs are intended to reduce the prevalence of child labor; however, no assessments of the impact of these programs on child labor have been identified (U.S Embassy Freetown, 2012). Despite these programs, the government’s investment in social programs continues to be insufficient to address the scope of child labor in Sierra Leone, particularly among children working in dangerous activities in agriculture, mining, fishing and domestic labor.

This is a glimpse into the reality of children in Sierra Leone; “Help!; Join the Campaign to Save the lives of Sierra Leonean Children”


Boa˚s, M, A Hatloy (2008). Child Labour in West Africa: Different work – different vulnerabilities.” International               Migration, 46(3):1-24

Dunstan, S. Farmer Perceptions, (2009). Child Labour, and economics of tree crops production andmarketing:       

            Kailahun, Kenema and Kono Districts of Sierra Leone.

FAO-ILO (2011). Good Practice Guide for Addressing Child Labor in Fisheries and Aquaculture: Policy and practice

Retrieved from:

Fofana, L. (2008). Sierra Leone living off scraps: Intern press service. Retrieved from:  


 International Labour Office (2011). Children in hazardous work: what we know, what we need to do. Geneva,

International Labour Organization. Retrieved from:—dgreports/—dcomm/—publ/documents/publication/wcms_155428.pdf

Macro International Inc. (2008. In-country Rresearch on child labor/forced labor in the production of goods: Sierra Leone Fairfax

The International Human Rights Clinic(2009). Digging in the Dirt: Child Miners in Sierra Leone’s Diamond Industry. Harvard Law School, Cambridge Retrieved from:

U.S. Department of State (2012), Sierra Leone in country reports on human rights practices: Washington, DC. Retrieved from:

U.S. Embassy- Freetown,(2010; 2011; 2012; & 2013) reports







Teenage Pragnancy: Cause of Maternal Deaths in Sierra Leone

Awoko  : a local reputable newspaper in Sierra Leone in its March 31, 2014 publication highlighted that:

The First Lady of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Sia Nyama Koroma, has said that 40% of maternal deaths occur as a result of teenage pregnancy. She made this statement at the formal opening of a policy dialogue meeting at the Bintumani Hall, Aberdeen, under the theme ‘curbing early marriage and protecting children’s right in West Africa.

Retrieved from:

Teenage Pregnancy and Teenage Motherhood has taken a center stage in the lives of young girls particularly in Sierra Leone and the world over. Every year it is estimated that about 14 million adolescent girls give birth globally, this according to a (UNFPA ,2004) report on the state of the world Population.

In Sierra Leone, teenage pregnancy is one of the more pervasive problems affecting the health, social, economic and political progress and empowerment of women and girls. The issue to address is alarming and is reflected in the following national statistics: 34% of all pregnancies occur amongst teenage girls (SLDHS 2008), 26% of women age 15-19 have already had a birth (MICS 2010), 40% of maternal death occur as a result of teenage pregnancy (MICS 2010) and the untimely pregnancy of young girls is ranked as the third most common reason for them dropping out of school (UNICEF 2008). Girls especially in rural areas get married before the age 18years contributing to school dropout, teenage pregnancy, early child bearing leading to maternal and child mortality. According to the National strategy for the reduction of teenage pregnancy (2013), Early child bearing and teenage pregnancy is one of the most pervasive problem affecting, health, economic and political progress and the empowerment of women and girls in the country. In 2010, 7 % of girls 15-19 had a live birth before 15 years of age. In this age cohort, girls in rural areas were twice as likely to get pregnant before 15 years of age. (UNICEF Situation Analysis, 2011).

The problem:

Primarily, Teenage pregnancy has been identified as a booming problem in Sierra Leone. This is as a result of problems ranging from sexual behavior of girls and boys and the absence of reproductive health knowledge, early sexual exposure, poverty and family support structure, harmful traditional beliefs, Negative peer pressure, power relations and other undecided factors leading to an increase in Teenage Pregnancy and Teenage Motherhood in the Country.

Early marriage remains a vexing problem and a leading cause of teenage pregnancy in Sierra Leone. Among girls 15-19 years, 8 % were married before 15 years in 2010 compared to 15 % in 2005[1]. Girls in this age group in rural areas were more than twice as likely to be married by 15 years compared with girls in urban areas. At twelve to fourteen years of age, both boys and girls were increasingly regarded as adults eligible to transition to Junior Secondary School. In practice, however, many girls dropped out of school when they became pregnant or had married. Marriage often occurred following initiation into the Bondo Society. In many cases, the marriages were informal, hasty arrangements made because the girl was pregnant. Such marriages lacked the security and psychosocial supports that traditional arrangements had provided, and they left many girls at risk of abandonment and neglect. Boys, too, were increasingly regarded as adults since they had been initiated, showed deeper voice and physical maturity, were sexually active, and did the work of adult men.

In Sierra Leone, girls that give birth under the age 16 are more likely to die as a result of excessive hemorrhage, pre-eclampsia or to what many may refer to as obstructed labor. With an estimated population of about 5.6 million in Sierra Leone, 48% of whom are below the age of Eighteen Years (18) And this has led for Sierra Leone to be ranked last in the Human Development Index at 177th, with 38% of the population do not meet their food needs. (MICS, 2010). Teenage pregnancy and childbirth are the principal causes of both maternal and mortality rate in Sierra Leone for girls aged 14-17, accounting for every 60% of deaths associated with teenage pregnancy. (UNICEF, 2010).

In relation to the above situation, the government for Sierra Leone lunched a national strategy to address this normally in the country.

See below video:

The government is all on all people organizations, government department traditional leaders and parents, teachers, nurses to join the fight against the devastating ills of teenage pregnancy in teh country.