Top-Rated Parent Support Program Helps Families Address Adolescent Behavior

Posted April 11, 2022, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

A black man and a black boy are seated next to each other. both are looking down, but smiling.

Con­nect, a par­ent­ing skills and sup­port pro­gram that receives grant fund­ing and tech­ni­cal assis­tance from the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion, has earned a major mark of dis­tinc­tion. The Cal­i­for­nia Evi­dence-Based Clear­ing­house for Child Wel­fare (CEBC) has eval­u­at­ed the pro­gram Well Sup­port­ed by Research Evi­dence” — its high­est rat­ing available. 

Con­nect helps strength­en, repair and rebuild the bonds between par­ents and their pre­teens and teens,” says Vicky Kel­ly, exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Con­nect Par­ent Group Net­work. Care­givers par­tic­i­pat­ing in the pro­gram feel more hope­ful and effec­tive” notes Kel­ly, while the involved youth expe­ri­ence few­er strug­gles with con­duct and emo­tion­al problems.”

Part­ner­ship Focus­es on Place­ment Prevention

The need for effec­tive com­mu­ni­ty-based pro­grams that address ado­les­cent behav­ior is urgent, accord­ing to Tim Deck­er, a senior fel­low with the Casey Foundation’s Fam­i­ly Well-Being Strat­e­gy Group.

Each year, about 214,000 chil­dren and young peo­ple are sep­a­rat­ed from their fam­i­lies and placed in fos­ter care. Child behav­ior” is list­ed as the cause for near­ly half — 46% — of such removals involv­ing youth old­er than age 12.

With­in this sce­nario, youth of col­or face worse out­comes than their white peers. Child wel­fare sys­tems are more like­ly to sep­a­rate Black and Amer­i­can Indi­an or Alaskan Native ado­les­cents from their par­ents. Young peo­ple of col­or are also over-rep­re­sent­ed in the nation’s juve­nile deten­tion cen­ters and jus­tice system.

One way to reduce over-reliance on juve­nile jus­tice and child wel­fare sys­tems is to ensure there are effec­tive, just and equi­table alter­na­tives when fam­i­lies strug­gle with devel­op­men­tal, emo­tion­al or behav­ioral issues with ado­les­cents,” says Decker.

With Casey’s sup­port, the Cana­da-based Con­nect pro­gram is expand­ing in the Unit­ed States. Two sites — in Atlanta and Hous­ton — are among the first in the nation to deliv­er Con­nect train­ing. Both efforts, fund­ed by Foun­da­tion grants, are led by his­tor­i­cal­ly Black colleges.

In Atlanta, the Pre­ven­tion Resource Cen­ter at More­house School of Med­i­cine is offer­ing Con­nect train­ing for Black fathers of ado­les­cents. The ses­sions are run by Fathers Incor­po­rat­ed, a non­prof­it that sup­ports healthy bonds between fathers and their children.

In Hous­ton, Prairie View A&M University’s Texas Juve­nile Crime Pre­ven­tion Cen­ter is pro­vid­ing Con­nect train­ing to help fam­i­lies improve par­ent-child rela­tion­ships and youth behav­iors. The project has two part­ners: 1) Eight Mil­lion Sto­ries, a non­prof­it that helps out-of-school and for­mer­ly incar­cer­at­ed young peo­ple com­plete their edu­ca­tion, find employ­ment and devel­op life skills; and 2) the Pro-Vision Acad­e­my, a state char­ter school offer­ing career- and col­lege-readi­ness programs.

The Casey Foundation’s sup­port for these HBCU-led ini­tia­tives rec­og­nizes the stark racial dis­par­i­ties in teen entries to the child wel­fare and juve­nile jus­tice sys­tems,” says Leslie Gross, who directs Casey’s Fam­i­ly Well-Being Strat­e­gy Group. These ini­tia­tives hope to show that evi­dence-based fam­i­ly sup­port efforts, such as teach­ing par­ent­ing tech­niques, would be health­i­er for fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties and cer­tain­ly less trau­ma­tiz­ing for youth than expos­ing fam­i­lies to sys­tem involvement.”

About the Con­nect Par­ent Program

Con­nect is a 10-week skill-build­ing pro­gram that pro­motes social, emo­tion­al and behav­ioral adjust­ment and attach­ment secu­ri­ty for youth between the ages of 8 and 18. It is cur­rent­ly offered in six lan­guages with dif­fer­ent ver­sions avail­able for par­ents, kin­ship care­givers and fos­ter par­ents. Spe­cial­ized sup­port is also avail­able for par­ents of ado­les­cents who iden­ti­fy as LGBTQ.

Kel­ly iden­ti­fies the goal of the pro­gram as strength­en­ing fam­i­lies to pre­vent sys­tem involve­ment of youth and to sup­port suc­cess­ful reuni­fi­ca­tion or kin­ship place­ments as youth return to the community.”

In group ses­sions led by cer­ti­fied facil­i­ta­tors, par­tic­i­pants learn about ado­les­cent devel­op­ment. Care­givers learn how to bet­ter respond to youth behav­iors and emo­tions, and they prac­tice par­ent­ing skills that yield results, accord­ing to jour­nal arti­cles reviewed and cit­ed by the CEBC.

Mar­lene Moret­ti, Ph.D., a pro­fes­sor of psy­chol­o­gy at Simon Fras­er Uni­ver­si­ty in British Colum­bia, devel­oped Con­nect in col­lab­o­ra­tion with men­tal health prac­ti­tion­ers and gov­ern­ment stake­hold­ers. Para­pro­fes­sion­als, com­mu­ni­ty advo­cates and health and edu­ca­tion­al experts must receive train­ing and cer­ti­fi­ca­tion before offer­ing the pro­gram in com­mu­ni­ty agen­cies, schools, hos­pi­tals and men­tal health centers.

About the Cal­i­for­nia Evi­dence-Based Clear­ing­house for Child Welfare

CEBC’s mis­sion is to sup­port the effec­tive imple­men­ta­tion of evi­dence-based prac­tices for chil­dren and fam­i­lies who are involved in the child wel­fare sys­tem. To advance this work, the clear­ing­house lever­ages peer-reviewed research to eval­u­ate pro­grams and prac­tices and then shares its find­ings in a pub­lic data­base, which child wel­fare experts can use to locate and learn about dif­fer­ent approaches.

Earn­ing CEBC’s top rat­ing can help Con­nect grow, accord­ing to Decker.

The Con­nect train­ing program’s recent CEBC rat­ing assures com­mu­ni­ties and prac­ti­tion­ers that there is empir­i­cal evi­dence of its effec­tive­ness,” he says. Hope­ful­ly, this will encour­age more juris­dic­tions to con­sid­er using alter­na­tives to fam­i­ly sep­a­ra­tion — and invest­ing in proven pre­ven­tion strate­gies that build strong families.”

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