Concerned by the number of parents who approached their Community Police Unit about their child’s drug use, officers developed a class to help parents identify, prevent and intervene in teen substance use. Twenty parents of high-risk youth were personally invited and 19 attended that first class. In the middle of the second session parents began opening up, asking for help with issues that went far beyond just drug use.
Officers searched for a curriculum that focused on highly destructive adolescent behaviors, issues patrol officers deal with daily, but none existed. Undeterred, the team sought expert advice from psychologists and curriculum specialists to help them develop a program that offered concrete answers for every parent question asked.
Two years later the Parent Project® had grown to 10 sessions with a following parent-led support group. To meet the growing need, officers held 7 classes per year in both English and Spanish. Classes averaged more than 35 parents each and the waitlist to take the next class continued to grow.
The Parent Project® would eventually be named, “Distinguished Program of the Year” by the California Youth Authority. Other law enforcement agencies, school districts and juvenile probation departments took notice and the team developed a training to help interested agencies run their own program.
Now in its 28th year, the Parent Project® has become the largest court mandated juvenile diversion program in the country. At its core, however, it remains a community police program designed to address the root causes of juvenile crime. In the Parent Project® model, law enforcement officers work directly with parents to help improve adolescent children’s school attendance and performance, reduce family conflict, curb drug and alcohol use, prevent runaways, stop violent behavior and develop strong, in-home prevention and intervention strategies for youth gang involvement.
An example of the program’s success can be found in Roseville California. In just 6 months time, 15 Roseville families generated 87 calls to local law enforcement for their out-of-control teens. Six months after graduating from the Roseville Parent Project®, the same 15 families generated only 4 juvenile related calls for service.
The Parent Project® brings parents into the problem solving process, reduces juvenile crime, significantly reduces juvenile related calls for service and dramatically improves police/community relations. The bond that develops between families and the officers is one for which every law enforcement agency strives, but few achieve.