Writer: D'Lyn Ford
LAS CRUCES - An open house and forum on families Sept. 14 in Las Cruces will showcase the Family Strengthening Partnership, a grant-funded parenting education program for Doņa Ana County families.
Visitors can view children's artwork, talk to parent panelists and hear legislative candidates outline their plans for strengthening New Mexico families, beginning at 5 p.m. at the New Mexico Health Department offices at 1170 N. Solano.
The Family Strengthening Partnership, a collaboration between New Mexico State University's Family and Consumer Sciences department and the state Health Department, offers classes, activities and resource materials for parents with children under 5. The program, funded through a $195,000 grant from the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, aims to prevent adolescent drug and alcohol abuse by helping families with young children learn parenting skills.
"Parenting education is nine times more effective in preventing substance abuse than programs geared directly at children. That has been documented in hundreds of studies," said Esther Devall, project director and associate professor in NMSU's family and child science program. "We should continue school-based drug prevention programs, but we need to get at the root of family-based problems by teaching parenting skills, and we need to start early."
Parenting education is also effective in decreasing teen pregnancy, school dropout and juvenile delinquency rates, Devall said. The Family Strengthening Partnership began offering parenting education classes in June at clinics for the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program. "We're providing parenting services where people already go," Devall said.
The two-year project solicited parents' input about classes and activities. At fathers' suggestion, special family outings were planned in addition to classes.
The project offers educational activities for the entire family, Devall said. Parents can attend classes while their children participate in activities that foster emotional development and self esteem. Parents and children meet for a half-hour family time, then resume separate sessions.
Lisa Shields, a graduate of NMSU's family and child science program, conducts training for peer educators and oversees the project on site. Three bilingual parent educators who are WIC clients work with English- and Spanish-speaking parent groups. As groups form, some are moving their meetings to community centers and schools within walking distance of their homes, Devall said.
For more information about the open house and forum or the parenting education activities, contact Shields at (505) 528-5070.
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