21ST CENTURY PARENT SUPPORT
By Randall Cook
In this day and age, parents are eager, and in some cases demanding, more parent support and involvement from schools and programs. In attempting to bridge that gap, many Schools offer parent workshops, conferences and seminars. Yet the on-going needs parents have for information, connection and support during the time their child is in their program outstrips the best efforts of any staff. To each family, there is only one child in the Program … their's. Yet at the same time, the Program Staff are already stretched thin working directly with all the students in their care. Recognizing the value of mentoring, some Schools have parent support groups meeting in various locations around the country. Yet, many families cannot attend because they do not live near enough to the city where they are being held. The issue of expanding services for parents is important, and a trend that has been going on for a long time as summarized by a November 2006 statement "One of the most important trends in private residential schools and programs for children with problems has been to bring parents into the loop." (Lon Woodbury, Woodbury Reports, Inc., November 2006, Parents in the Loop)
The solution? Simply bring the support group to them … in their own living room, home office, at work, airports, in the US or out. They can be connected anywhere and anytime. It is support they can access 24/7, any time of the day or night, 365 days a year. Parents have a need to connect to their peers who know exactly what they are going through. They need support and encouragement for their family's tough challenges. They want to celebrate with someone who will truly understand their joy as progress is made. Who better to do that then other families who have been there and done that? Connecting with other parents, sharing their own family healing, and offering encouragement to stay the course is now possible 24/7.
This is about the power of technology and especially the power to connect that the Internet allows. Through online parent support groups, schools and programs can make the next step in the evolution of private schools in serving the parents of their students. Several schools and programs have already experimented with developing online parent support groups for their parents, and are enthusiastic about the results.
"We are very happy, but most importantly, our parents are delighted with this service," comments Richard Williams, Director of Marketing and Business Development, Three Springs Adolescent Treatment Programs, in talking about their own online parent support group.
Dean Porterfield, Program Administrator for Three Springs of Duck River, in talking about their online service, reports that this "… has been a very positive experience and has aided in our Program taking the support we offer our families to the next level. I have heard nothing but positive things from all of my clients. Many have asked, 'I can't imagine not having the support of the Community Board, how did we survive before?' It has aided in families sharing their emotional journeys of growth, and they know support for those tough days is only a click away. In addition, the support services have been exceptional."
Technology, and the desire of parents to be involved, will not fade away. Welcome this change that will create more opportunity for your parents to become part of the solution.
About the Author: Randall Cook has applied his experience in Internet systems to developing and administering secure online parent support systems as Operations Manager of Core Solutions, San Diego, CA. In the years since graduating an adolescent residential program himself, he went on to work in various capacities in the private youth placement arena. For more information, contact Randall at 877-271-4427, Randall@corebb.com, or visit www.CoreBB.com.