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"LEADER" Online: Vol. 9, No. 1

Court-Mandated & Protective Services Parents
Learn Active Parenting Skills

by Diana King
When Shirlee Flanigan-Isbell assumed responsibility for parenting education programs offered by the Arkansas Department of Human Services*, she researched the existing state program and was dismayed at what she found: underutilized services, inconsistent parenting content, bored parents, lack of programming for parents of teenagers...the list went on. She came away from the research process convinced that with some changes, Arkansas could offer a high-quality and consistent program that met the needs of court-mandated and protective services parents served by all 86 DCFS offices.

Soon Flanigan-Isbell, Administrator of Community Support for the Division of Children and Family Services of the Arkansas Department of Human Services, began examining parenting education programs for age-appropriate content (toddler, school-age and teen), pre-and post-test assessments, and ease of delivery.

"When I reviewed the Active Parenting materials," she says, "I was impressed that the program offered a parenting education continuum from birth to 18 and that Spanish versions were also available for our Hispanic families. All the programs were easy to understand and the exercises were do-able and measurable.

"Active Parenting offers a common-sense approach to daily life with children that the average parent can relate to. It is a lasting curriculum emphasizing basic principles that parents can apply in many situations as their children grow up."

After gaining the approval of Roy Kindle, Director of DCFS, and Billye Burke, Assistant Director of Community Support, to proceed with the curriculum change, she enlisted the help of Albert Marlar, Chief Financial Officer, in identifying enough monies out of the federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) grant.

Active Parenting's Director of Training Susan Reed (front center) poses with 19 of the 160 Arkansas parenting education aides she trained in Little Rock.


To help integrate the new curriculum into all 86 offices, Flanigan-Isbell called in Active Parenting Director of Training Susan Reed to conduct a two-day training session for 160 parenting education aides. During training, the multi-cultural videos featuring parenting issues such as toddler tantrums, homework hassles, and rebellious teens "went over like hotcakes," explains Flanigan-Isbell, "because many of our clients are resistant and its so important that teaching tools help them feel you are joining with them in presenting and solving parenting problems."

"The training was wonderful," adds Linda Armstrong, Social Service Aide III and a 17-year DHS-DCES employee in the Jonesboro-Area 8 office. "Susan made it easy to understand the curriculum and how we can conduct a class or work one-on-one with parents in an effective way." Reed says she found the Arkansas training group "eager to learn the new program and share their experiences with each other. There was such a sense of teamwork and the recognition that effective parenting education can make a positive difference in their communities."

Now back in her Jonesboro office and working daily with parents, Armstrong finds "the videos really make this program. Many court-ordered parents come in with an attitude. Then when they watch the videos they start to say 'Wow, that's me and my child.' As they begin to experiment with the new parenting skills and see some changes at home, they relax and start seeing the benefits of the parenting education class.

"Our clients love 1,2,3,4 Parents," notes Armstrong. "It is easy to understand, even by parents who have learning disabilities. In fact, I have a parent who was required to take 1,2,3,4 Parents for her youngest child and now wants to take other Active Parenting classes to help with her older children.

"Active Parenting Now helps parents learn how to be consistent and set logical consequences so that children learn how to make good choices now and later on as teenagers. The letters of encouragement also get a great response. Writing these letters is a new concept for many of our parents, but they get such positive response from their children that it helps them continue.

"With the Active Parenting of Teens program, we are dealing with parents who have rebellious, irresponsible teens and kids who are growing up too fast. When they see the videos, these parents start nodding their heads in recognition and realize they are not the only ones having problems communicating with their teen."

Now that the new program has been underway for six months, Flanigan-Isbell is receiving positive reaction from judges who are "pleased that court-mandated parents are receiving consistent parenting education from certified parenting educators."


Assistant Director of Community Services Quranner Cotledge, Director of the Division of Children and Family Services Roy Kindle, and Administrator of Community Support Shirlee Flanigan-Isbell worked together to implement the statewide Active Parenting training program for all court-mandated and protective services parents served by 86 DCFS offices.


The new program is also having a positive effect on the parenting education aides. "I love teaching Active Parenting," explains Armstrong, because over time I can see parents learning new skills and that helps me come to work in a positive frame of mind."

*The Arkansas Department of Human Services serves more than a million people annually and oversees a budget in excess of 3 billion dollars.

Reprinted from Leader magazine.
Copyright 2003 by Active Parenting Publishers, Inc.