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Basic Parenting Program Evaluation

Basic Parenting is a set of resources or tools for use by parent educators with a variety of audiences including parents, foster parents, grandparents, and students interested in learning about parenting. Participants can be at any educational level, though the program was created primarily for low-reading level caregivers in difficult relationships.

The program originated through a small internal grant from Kansas Research and Extension at Kansas State University and is now entirely self-supporting, independent of state and federal funds.

The program is dynamic, not static, since program design is based on open-ended architecture and allows for the integration of modules over time. The original "foundations" program now includes an expansion on understanding children through their art, and the development of conscience. A third expansion on anger management will be launched later this year.

Basic Parenting is not a canned program of rigid instruction. Instead, a variety of approaches are used to reach intended audiences. Parent educators have used the material in home visitor programs, church meetings, and PTA gatherings as well as a group meeting format. This flexibility makes the program difficult to evaluate. Since our primary emphasis has been on creating useful tools, the primary credit for success should be given to the educator using the resource. Even so, we believe that we have designed an integrated set of quality tools that give parent educators the opportunity to reach a diverse range of parents more effectively.

Basic Parenting Leaders

*Since its launch in early 1999, approximately 600 professionals in Kansas, Alabama Missouri, Idaho, and California have participated in full-day trainings on Basic Parenting.

*Leaders using the program include county extension agents, Kansas Action For Children parent educators, Parents as Teacher educators, and PTA leaders.

*Professionals in 40 states, Great Britain, Canada, China, Australia, Singapore, Korea, and American Samoa use Basic Parenting.

*Kansas county extension agents have used Basic Parenting as part of Open Door (homeless shelter) volunteer training in Geary county, interagency cooperative events in Nemaha county, Mother-to-Mother programs in Shawnee county, volunteer training in Barton county, and court-mandated parenting programs in Marion and Harper counties.

The 27 professionals who participated in the May 2002 leader training led by Dr. Smith in Alabama completed an anonymous evaluation given to them by their hosts at the University of Alabama:

*More than ninety-five percent said they learned something new.

*Eighty-one percent said the information was "very" applicable to their work; all the remaining indicated the information was "somewhat" applicable.

*Thirty-five percent stated that they were "very likely" to train or facilitate the training of other county/organization staff or volunteers with the information they gained; sixty percent said such training was "possible."

*When asked to give their overall and anonymous impression of the effectiveness of the training, participants in all the trainings combined rated their experience as an average of 4.5 on a 5-point scale from "Excellent" (5) to "Terrible" (1).

Following the full-day training, participants responded with the following comments when asked what they liked best about their experience:

"I like the fact that the program is easy to use and very versatile. The cards were great. You can use everything or bits and pieces."

"The sharing of the program stories and how the questions/situations were handled in the counties. Liked how we can use all this "stuff" in various teachable moments (whether one on one or in large groups)."

"The workshop helped me feel more comfortable with the material and more confident to use it by having a chance to use it, for example the cards."

"I like the fact that we learned how to package our lessons according to our own need and run copies. No changes to the copies. Cards are a real plus. I like the way there are really no wrong answers."

"The flexibility of this program. You can adapt it so many ways. I'm looking forward to using it both as a workshop and in home visits!"

"The program layout and resources are wonderful. It is obvious that a lot of hard, well thought out work when into this program. I look forward to facilitating a program so that I can share Basic Parenting with families."

"The materials that we walked away with can be very useful for my in-home visits and my parenting classes. The materials seem easy to use and really leaned toward the population it work with."

"There is a tool available to help me teach parenting skills to the parents I work with. It's well-organized and easy to use, which helps us in our busy world."

Leader training has been conducted for both the Art Awareness and Development of Conscience modules (PLUS Programs). In a full day training on conscience for educators (most in home visitor programs) in Southeast Kansas:

*Sixty-five percent rated the program on a four-point scale as "excellent"; thirty-one percent as "good"' and four percent as "fair."

*Ninety-three percent stated that the training would change their future practices.

When asked what they would do differently, they responded:

"Talk to my families about empowering their children to make decisions and choices, to make all decisions for them."

"I will be more observant of the young children of the families I work with, as far as signs of developing conscience is concerned; I will perhaps be more aware of potential problems and how they could be handled."

"Point out opportunities to parents to teach compassion, moral sense, etc. when a teachable moment occurs."

Basic Parenting Leader Follow-up Assessment

A national evaluation of professionals using Basic Parenting was conducted in the fall of 2001. Seventeen professionals from Kansas, Illinois, Louisiana, Alabama, Missouri California, Idaho, Washington, and North Carolina returned the questionnaire. See Appendix A for the perspective of a parent educator who has used Basic Parenting in the state of Washington.

A brief summary of the extended follow-up:

*On a ten-point scale (10 high), the Basic Parenting Handbook was rated at 8.9. The 80 Insight sheets were rated 8.9. The cards received an 8.6 rating while the workshop resources received an 8.9 rating.

*Twelve professionals said Basic Parenting had become their primary or "core" resource for teaching parent education. Five said it was useful but employed as a support to other parent education efforts.

*These 17 program leaders reached 1,231 parents in 2001.

*Leaders were asked to estimate how influential the program was on parents who received the materials or participated in their programs. On the average, leaders indicated that 42% of the parents experienced a "significant positive impact" on their parenting; 45% experienced a "moderate impact." No one predicted a negative impact. The remaining 13% was split between slight and no impact.

*One hundred percent of the leaders said they would recommend Basic Parenting to others.

*Only four of the leaders conducted training for others in the use of the program. The most significant effort was from a Missouri Extension professional who trained 33 parent educators in Kansas City, MO.

*A Child Protective Service worker in California wrote, "The eighty Insight handouts are my favorite. The parents in my classes appear to benefit from reading them and the Insights reinforce what I teach in the court mandated parenting classes. They are easy to read and the examples given for each Insight are ones that the parents can relate to. The educational level of the parents I teach vary from the 7th grade to college level."

*A KSU FACS agent from Kiowa County wrote, "Most of the parents had been court ordered to attend this class. They were a hostile audience the first time they met, but by the last session, they were glad to be there. They felt it was worthwhile, and even thought they did not want to come they had gained knowledge that would help them as parents. This class is as good or better than the $75.00 (cost per person) 'Parenting with Love and Logic.'"

*A Kansas Youth Services professional wrote, "The Basic Parenting Program is great because it deals with a wide variety of subjects. It is useful for a community parenting program because it encompasses all ages of children. The wonderful part of this program is that everything is contained in one package. All the information is provided on how to start and run the program. All the resource material is available to copy for use in the classes. It fits the needs of court-ordered parenting programs because the materials (evaluations) can be used in compiling statistics for a variety of reports. The program is easy to learn and teach."

*An extension professional in Illinois wrote, "I like the variety of activities. It is research-based and designed following the National Extension Parent Education Model. The parents especially like the cards. They are simply stated and an easy beginning point for class discussion."

Basic Parenting Users (Pilot)

The foundations program was pilot tested with two groups of parents in Manhattan, Kansas by its creator Dr. Charles A. Smith. Approximately 26 parents, many of them court mandated, participated in six 90-minute sessions.

*Seventeen parents anonymously returned summary evaluations of their experience. All respondents stated that they learned and are putting new ideas into practice. All stated that they were glad they participated in the course and would recommend it to their friends.

Anonymous written comments from parent participants included:

"This program taught me more about how to deal with my children than any other course or on-hands learning."

"I think this class is very helpful because it helps steer you in the right direction on bringing up your children so you don't make all the wrong decisions and do a totally bad parenting job."

"I think that everyone with children should have to take some kind of parenting class. But, I really liked this kind of class with Chuck. I know all parents lose their tempers with their children, but this six-week course really helped me with my two. It helped me realize I knew some of the things taught."

"I really liked getting out and hearing new information, trying it, and seeing good results. I've had a lot of fun. I wish this could last every Tuesday, FOREVER!!!"

"I learned a lot about how to handle a lot of situations different. I've also learned that taking time with my child is very important, no matter how old they are. It means a lot to them."

"I think everyone should take a parenting class. I have learned a lot of good things that I was already doing and didn't realize it. This class has helped me to learn more about what my daughter is feeling and why she may be behaving certain ways. I already see a difference. Thank you!"

"I [learned to] understand Kristi better with her feelings and how she deals with things. Listening to my child better and understand what she says better."

Basic Parenting Users

A parent educator with Kansas Children's Service League in Northeast Kansas submitted final evaluations for 25 parents who participated in a 6-week session she conducted.

*Eighty percent of the parents replied in the affirmative to the question, "Should government or agency resources be used to bring this program to other parents?"

On a simple 3-point-scale (A lot/Not much/Not at all) participants were asked to rate anonymously how much they learned from participating in the course:

*Ninety-three percent said they learned "a lot" about nurturing and loving children.

*Ninety-five percent said they learned "a lot" about helping their children learn.

*Ninety-five percent said they and their children were growing closer "a lot."

*Eighty-three percent said they were doing more now to help their children learn.

Parents in this group were also asked what they might say to a person in charge to convince him or her to implement the program they just completed. Some of their comments were as follows:

"That it helps just knowing other parents are going through problems too, that you are not the only one."

"It teaches you to deal with your children misbehaviors, and how to care for their needs."

"Parenting does not come with a handbook. I think parents should take parenting classes when they have children. It would make them better parents and maybe cut down on some of the abuse these children go through."

"If this program helps to protect our children as well as gives guidance to teach parents, all parents should be given the help and options to attend."

When asked to describe what they learned, parents reported:

"The most important thing I have learned is different way to discipline and most of all how to listen to my child when most needed."

"I learned that there are other parents with worse problems who deal with a lot of pain."

"I learned that I am a good parent who has made mistakes."

"To be assertive and not aggressive. I have always been more aggressive and it was a great thing for me to hear the definition of both to realize there is an easier way to things than always being aggressive."

"I learned that you can discipline your children in many different ways. I also learned to listen to them more."

"That being a parent is not just about caring for my child, but also caring for myself."

"I learned that guiding them means to show them the way, not to enforce my desires or my will upon them."

"Understand feelings of children."

"This class has helped me to calm myself and remember a lot of the basic things I should always remember. Sometimes we get caught up in our lives and forget the simplest things."

Appendix 1

Hello from Washington State! My name is Jan Gravley and I am one of the recipients of the initial set of Basic Parenting Programs. I thought it was about time to let you know how it is going.

I work for the Aberdeen School District as a Family Support Specialist. Specifically I am working with the Federal Even Start Program. You may not be familiar with the requirements of Federal Even Start. It is a Family Literacy Program that combines Adult Education, Parenting Education, Home Visits, Early Childhood Education, and Parent and Child Together Activities (PACT). The target population is families with children birth-8 years with one or more adult family member who does not have a high school diploma, GED, or has a functional literacy level below 9th grade. In reality, most of our parents come with a reading level somewhere between 3rd and 6th grade.

Basic Parenting is a wonderful match for our program. We have taken some liberties in the format of presenting the material due to the structure of our program. We present each section in a group setting, participate in the hands on engagement activities, and using a presentation/discussion format work our way through the basic principles and skills. During the two weeks that follow our group meeting our parents who meet four days a week in class use the scenarios and other learning activities as a basis for additional classroom activities such as journal writing, creative problem solving and finding a focus for planned PACT activities. We are very pleased with the content and focus of the sessions and also with the use of symbols as constant reinforcement of the content. For parents with low literacy skills the symbols become a vital and yet not demeaning way to access, organize, and retrieve information.

We have had wonderful discussions around the topics of Self Care, and Understanding our Children. We are able to use the program to expand into more of a thematic approach because of the way it is organized. In January we will move into the Guiding My Child section and we appreciate the use of the term Guide as opposed to Discipline, or Control. Some of our families have connections with Child Protective Services because of parenting choices of the past and the term Guide seems to strike them as a balanced way of seeing our role.

I shared about the Basic Parenting Program with several Federal Even Start Coordinators at a recent National Even Start Conference and found so many programs are looking for something with this flexibility and focus.

I want to personally thank you for the work you did to prepare this program as well as your wise comments on FAMNET. Basic Parenting does a nice job of bringing concepts from the Abstract to the Concrete and for many parents with lower literacy skills this is essential for learning to take place. I will be presenting information about Basic Parenting and our success with the program for the Washington State Even Start Coordinators meeting on Thursday, November 18. Thank you for letting me pilot this series. It's a winner. Best Wishes -

Jan Gravley, Mother of Three, Family Support Specialist, Aberdeen Washington

Basic Parenting
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