Extension Family Programs Benefit Community

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach of Dallas County provides research-based learning opportunities for citizens every year. With the mindset of “Making a Difference for Iowans”, Extension reaches out to strengthen local communities—starting with families.
Great Beginnings for Families is a five-week skills building program for parents of infants through preschoolers. Parents who attend learn how to effectively administer positive discipline while helping their young cope with anger and conflict. Encouraging learning through play and helping the child grow and develop is also a core part of this workshop series.
“This class was enlightening and very beneficial to me,” shared one father. “Being a good parent is what I have to do for the rest of my life. Quite frankly, no other job or task is more important. This class encouraged me to take a look at myself and evaluate the skills I have, and to also learn new skills to help me be the dad I have to be for my kids.”
Strengthening Families Program (SFP) is seven-week workshop series for parents and their youth ages 10-14 to attend. During the weekly two-hour sessions, parent and child are separated during the first hour. As adults discuss means of problem solving, communication and using loving methods to set limits for their son or daughter, youth will engage in topics of how to deal with stress, set goals and handle peer pressure. In the second hour, families unite and interact through activities and games to solidify their lessons and work toward building strong bonds and relationships.
“I was worried about taking the class with my child because of his special needs, but he was able to participate in all of the activities and never complained about coming,” said one mother.
“This is the best thing that our family could have done,” expressed another attendee. “We’re going to continue doing family meetings ever week that will help us stay in communication with one another, and our goal is to have a sit down dinner at least five nights out of the seven at the table as a family.”
SFP has proven effective in delaying the initiation of substance abuse and reducing risky behavior in youth. Research has shown through benefit-cost analysis for every dollar put into this program, $9.60 is returned to the community due to a reduction in substance abuse treatment and less involvement with law enforcement. Findings also concluded both child and parent improved their focus and created positive environments for themselves in school and the workplace.
Both Great Beginnings for Families and Strengthening Families were held in 2013 and early 2014. Extension Educator Lisa Mickelson plans to offer SFP again in the fall through Waukee Community Education and again in 2015 in Adel and Perry. Great Beginnings will be offered in both Waukee and Perry this fall. For more questions on these programs or to learn more about Extension and Outreach services, contact the Dallas County office at (515) 993-4281. 

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