Writer: D'Lyn Ford
LAS CRUCES - New Mexico State University's Family Strengthening Partnership was one of 25 programs in the nation recognized for innovative efforts with young children and their families by Columbia University's Center for Children in Poverty.
More than 125 programs were nominated for the award, which recognizes innovative and holistic approaches to helping children. In addition to being recognized, NMSU was asked to send a representative to a conference March 11-12 in Washington, D.C. to discuss and share program strategies.
Program coordinator Esther Devall, an associate professor with NMSU's family and consumer sciences department, said she thinks the program's initial collaboration with the county's Women, Infants and Children nutritional program is what attracted the Center's attention. "Parents were already going to the Department of Health for nutritional instruction, but the organizers were constantly being asked basic parenting questions," Devall said. "They asked me to come out and teach a couple of classes, which were so successful that I was able to obtain a grant to help start the current program."
Since its start in 1999, the Family Strengthening Partnership has held more than 20 parent education classes for Doņa Ana County families with children up to age 5. Classes meet weekly for two and a half hours over a six month period. During class, parents learn about how to nurture their children and themselves while their children learn through activity and play. More than 200 parents and their children have graduated.
Devall said statistics from a recent survey prove the program works. A majority of parents surveyed said they were less likely to spank their children or to reverse roles and expect their children to take care of them. The parents also said they now have more appropriate expectations of their children and understand how to use positive discipline.
"I know our program is good and that it works, but I was really impressed with how we compared with the huge statewide programs that were represented in Washington, D.C.," Devall said. "I represent a lot of hard-working people and I was really honored to be there with these nationally known programs."
Devall said receiving this recognition has strengthened her resolve to seek funding to extend the Family Strengthening Partnership into other New Mexico counties.
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