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Just Beginning Gives Incarcerated Teens Tools to Be Competent Parents
Date: July 14, 2017 09:08AM

Just Beginning Gives Incarcerated Teens Tools to Be Competent Parents

Incarcerated teen parents rarely receive parenting education or visit with their infants despite the proven long lasting benefits experienced by themselves and their children.

Just Beginning is a parenting program that connects youth in the juvenile justice system with their children by teaching teens how to develop a positive relationship with their child through research?based parenting instruction, facilitating weekly structured visits in a child-friendly environment specially designed for positive parental interaction and connecting the teen parent to a strong support system for the entire family as the youth reintegrates into society.

Youth Law Center with Georgetown University has developed and administers the Just Beginning Program (formerly known as the “Baby Elmo Program). The intent of the program is to begin to give teen parents the ability and incentive to become competent committed parents by teaching them the tools to communicate and build a positive relationship with their children.

Just Beginning benefits the teen parent and the baby in the following ways:
• Increased contact with the community outside of Juvenile Hall is a benefit to detainees
• Youth experience behavior improvements after just one month of program participation
• Young parents view themselves as competent and responsible members of the community
• Babies benefit from the increased skills of their parent and the parent’s continued involvement

The Just Beginning program is video based, using the Sesame Beginnings videos. The class includes a hands-on visitation component, in which the incarcerated teen parent plays with his or her child. The visits serve as an incentive, not only to learn about parenting, but also for improved behavior in the facility and participation in habilitative activities.

Just Beginning is a parenting and visitation program for incarcerated teen parents that:
• Provides hands on parenting coaching in real time during youth visits with their children
• Is easily implemented both in and out of detention facilities
• Is endorsed by probation staff
• Improves youth's behaviors in detention
• Reduces recidivism

Just Beginning trainers train staff from participating facilities and work with them to structure, support and implement the program. The training also includes an instruction manual for the teacher.

One trained, the staff meet 1?on?1 with the teen parent, providing research?based parenting instruction in a format accessible for all literacy levels. The teaching component is then paired with a 1?on?1 visit between the parent and child.

After completing the program, Just Beginning graduates earn a certificate of completion which they may then use to demonstrate rehabilitation and seek an early release or transfer.

As graduates reintegrate into society, Just Beginning staff collaborate with relevant organizations to create a supportive team to assist them on their parenting journey, including parent and family support, job training and readiness, parenting and health education, day care and child support.

Detention staff report that many of the youth in Just Beginning exhibit improved behavior and become positive role models for their peers. When youth develop a bond with their children through Just Beginning, they have increased motivation to maintain good behavior so that they can continue to participate in the program. Participants also demonstrated increased responsiveness to and engagement with their children after completing the Just Beginning parenting program, which is a strong predictor of the youth's prospects for continuing their relationships with their children after release from detention.

Currently Just Beginning is in six county probation departments in California as well as the Cuyahoga Hills Juvenile Correctional Facility in Ohio and the Connecticut Juvenile Training School. The Youth Law Center is working with Rachel Barr, Ph.D. of Georgetown University, who has done direct research on the impact of television on parent/child interactions.

For more information about the Just Beginning Program, go to www.justbeginning.org

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