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"LEADER" Online: Vol. 10, No. 1

Q&A with Teresa Northrup, CPP

Teresa is the Prevention Coordinator of First Step in the Baltimore, Maryland, area, and a longtime Active Parenting leader and trainer. She took some time out of her busy schedule to share some secrets to her success.

What is First Step?
First Step is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization that originated in 1979 as a community-based organization providing services to the community. Today those services include substance abuse treatment services, youth employment training, educational services, parenting programs, prevention programs and community outreach.

A recent First Step Family Night attracted 100 participants—including 45 fathers. Here Teresa poses with basketballs set spinning by the evening’s guest, former Harlem Globetrotter Spencer “Spinny” Johnson.


How do you go about providing parenting classes?
Through numerous collaborative partnerships with Baltimore County Schools, Government, Police, Human Services, Juvenile Justice and the Local Management Board. First Step schedules (at area school sites) then posts and announces upcoming quarterly programs available to the area communities. Space is donated by area school facilities to reduce the expense to families. Funds are sought and obtained through grant applications. These steps are vital in reducing the overall expense to parents…currently $30 per individual and $40 per couple for the entire 6-week program!

The program is limited to a capacity of 20 participants (the maximum class size has been 24 participants) through early registration (with payment in advance). The program is implemented using transparencies, videos and a facilitator to provide an effective group program servicing numerous participants simultaneously. Individual, personal interaction time is allocated 30 minutes before and after the class. In addition, snacks are provided, although we ask participants to bring their own beverages.

About how many classes do you offer annually?
Currently we average six classes annually…Active Parenting of Teens and Active Parenting Now classes… sometimes 3 and 3, or 4 and 2, …or 2 and 4. The actual classes provided are defined by the need as reported by area families. However, a change we recently made is to offer the same class at two different locations to permit parents to jump from one class to the other based on their busy calendars. This has benefited us in retaining attendance since parents can attend on another evening when there is a schedule conflict.

What is your background…how did you get into the parenting business?
I am a Certified Prevention Professional working with youth in the community to develop the protective factors and refusal skills necessary for youth to refrain from or postpone initial experimentation with drugs. Frustrated by hearing stories from youth about their home environment, I switched my focus to hire more staff to work with them. I then turned my own efforts to assisting parents through parenting classes. Without positive parent support and involvement, our best youth prevention efforts seemed futile. I am glad to say it is working to support our youth, their families and our communities and schools!

How have you overcome funding challenges?
We have been challenged with budget deficits. However, we had strong vision from the beginning to provide parenting classes in affluent communities as well as low-income communities. Our belief was that ALL families will benefit from our parenting programs…and parents in affluent neighborhoods have direct and indirect affiliations with area politicians, judges and attorneys involved with family and juvenile behavioral problems. We believed that their familiarity with our parenting programs could increase support, referral, donations and funding for our programs. This vision has helped us to continue to provide parenting programs to all communities in our area.

Are you noticing any trends in parent problems?
Several areas of concern have been addressed recently. Extensive school homework, eating disorders, substance abuse/experimentation earlier and more intensely, oral sexual activity, social youth trends (tattooing, body piercing, ear tubes, co-ed sleepovers), parenting peer pressure between adults (parents wanting to fit in with their peers), bullying, discussing the effects of pornography with adolescents today, discussion of daily time schedules and the hectic effect on the family, and the importance of active verbal communication with in the family weekly.

Not long ago, I experienced my first AP class (Teens) with more men than women in the group. At the completion of the course, I had eight fathers and seven mothers. As the facilitator, I was challenged to provide more factual numbers than previously. This group of fathers wanted to be able to support their parenting with statistics and solid information when parenting their youth. It was wonderful to get the fathers’ perspectives…it will help me change the program to continue to encourage fathers in the process.

Any interesting stories from recent classes?
Nope, sorry we have a strict policy of “What’s discussed in this group…stays in this group.” That means me, too!

How do you get the word out about your classes?
Through parents’ word of mouth, collaborative partnerships within our region, but also through flyers, school newsletters, our HELPS Coalition website, and always posted on the AP website! The important aspect is to post the schedule early so parents can save the dates in their calendars! By early summer, we have announced our upcoming fall classes.

You’re a trainer too, right? Do you often hold Leader Training Workshops?
Absolutely! We provide LTWs twice a year (fall & spring) for several reasons:

  1. First Step can’t reach all the families in our region…we need help
  2. By providing ongoing, current training, our staff and area associate professionals have access to less expensive training, current training, and networking opportunities annually
  3. We believe in the effectiveness of this program and want to encourage others to attend the LTWs. We offer them the opportunity to attend any of our parenting classes to observe the process in person. We have found that this step begins to reduce the fears associated with the “first class jitters” and supports them to offer their first class!

Reprinted from Leader magazine.
Copyright 2005 by Active Parenting Publishers, Inc.