|To the editor:
In my role as a child advocate and former foster parent, I meet victims and learn of experiences that highlight the tragic and horribly profound impact resulting from child abuse and neglect through issues of mental health, crime, violence and addiction.
So often, these incidences occur as a result of underdeveloped parenting skills. A lack of knowledge and exposure to healthy parenting is the root behind many problems that affect children today. In order to make steps toward a solution, it is vital that our youth be educated on the responsibilities associated with parenting. As we approach April and National Child Abuse and Prevention Month, it is a timely opportunity to look at the substantive ways we can alter these patterns.
Schools have the opportunity to intervene and offer hope through the elective courses offered by the Family Consumer Science Program (FACS). These courses focus on parenting skills, child-development and family living. Many schools offer these classes as electives. It is vital that school administrators guide students towards participating in such courses.
Recently, I sent a letter to the Missouri Association of Secondary School Principals (MASSP) urging them to direct attention to the importance of expanding the reach of FACS courses, and incorporating an increased focus on parenting education among students.
Surveys report that 80-87% of all Americans will become biological parents. The FACS courses have the opportunity to increase skills that the majority of our students will utilize everyday for two decades of their life. All students would have an opportunity to begin discussing the qualities needed in their partner parent. The ultimate goal in equipping youth with parenting and coping skills is to reduce the incidences of child abuse and neglect. Children raised in an unhealthy family environment often grow to mimic the behavior of their parents. Early parenting education can prevent this from happening.
Government agencies have programs set in place in order to respond to unhealthy family environments. Unfortunately, these programs are set from a reactive position, meaning they are unable to interfere until a problem has arisen. It is imperative for the education system to get ahead of the issues before they arise, beginning with our youth. Educators have an opportunity to change the course of a child’s life and the lives of their children, making a positive impact on future communities.
I encourage you to also reach out to the MASSP regarding the educational efforts that need to occur in order to work towards creating and insuring a brighter future for children.
Rene Howitt, founder COPE24…Changing Our Parenting Experience