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).

                        Recommendations.

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.

References

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 http://www.census.gov/prod/2011pubs/acs-13.pdf

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: http://www.afterschool.ed.gov/programs/cb/stats_research/afcars/tar/report16.htm

One thought on “Parenting Education Programs and Mandated Parents in United States of America

  1. I am unable to keep the APA formatting in the blog. I formatted it several times but I am unable to keep it.

    Also be informed that the reference section significantly increased the number of words in the blog

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