Program Helps Troubled Families, At-Risk Youth

July 12, 2007 — At-risk families on St Croix have recently begun to get help at The Village-V.I. Partners in Recovery through the Strengthening Families Program.
The program is a nationally and internationally recognized parent and family program. Its organizers say it has been found to greatly reduce problem behaviors, delinquency and alcohol and drug abuse in children, and to improve social competence and school performance. Mistreatment of children also decreases as parents learn effective parenting skills.
The V.I. Partners in Recovery Strength Project (SP) began in January with funding from a V.I. Prevention state-incentive grant administered through the Department of Health. The SP provides services to males ages 12 to 17.
Since the beginning of the SP on St. Croix, six families with seven children have completed the seven-week project.
Xawntoia A. Franklin is the program coordinator and Soria Warner is administrative assistant. There are two youth-group facilitators and one family-group facilitator, all certified in the curriculum.
Dr. Karol Kumpfer at the University of Utah originally developed the program in the early 1980s in response to a request from a methadone-maintenance clinic for a program to help prevent substance abuse among children of parents in the program. The mission of SFP is to delay the onset of drinking by adolescents.
In the SP, families meet in The Village administrative offices at 102 Estate Richmond, Christiansted. The SP provides travel vouchers for families in need of transportation. The two-hour sessions are held once a week. During the first hour, youth and parents meet separately to learn with their peers. In the second hour, the families meet together to practice what they have learned.
In the sessions, the parents learn such things as the value of love and limits, supporting goals and dreams, building positive relationships, using appropriate penalties, listening skills, monitoring the child and interacting with the youth's school. The children learn skills such as thinking about dreams and goals, appreciating their parents, healthy coping skills, the importance of taking responsibility, peer-pressure resistance and learning to interact with positive role models.
Together the families practice complimentary skills, such as building positive relationships, expressing appreciation for each other, solving problems together, avoiding alcohol and drug abuse and setting clear expectations. During the sessions, role-playing scenarios are often used. One scenario might involve having a child simulate an unacceptable behavior and having another child convince him to change his ways.
Fun games such as follow the leader and balloon-keep-up are played during the course of the program. The families work on designing a family shield, creating their family tree and making treasure maps.
"By keeping the teens active and physically involved, we engage all their senses and make the information more memorable,” Franklin said.
Teens have been very responsive to the program, with almost a 100-percent completion rate. "If families and children actually show up for the first session, chances are they finish the program,” Franklin said. “Families are very enthusiastic about the program."
Feedback from families and children completing the program has generally been positive.
"I think that parents really want to connect with their teenagers, and teenagers want their parent's trust,” Franklin said. “We help make that happen."
The program is voluntary, but some cases are court-ordered. The staff receives referrals by word of mouth and recruits participants. The SP collaborates with the following agencies to access referrals and resources: St. Croix Unity Coalition, Women's Coalition, VICARE, Iglesia Camino a Damascus and the V.I. Resource Center for the Disabled.
The program provides childcare for siblings that are ineligible to participate in the groups. Since the program is voluntary, they realize families are often busy, so they provide family meals, flexible schedules, prizes, gift certificates and incentives to families towards the goal of removing any barriers to attendance.
To sign up for the next scheduled session, which starts Aug. 5, call 719-9900.
Back Talk Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email