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
"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
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.