A new project from SoHE and Extension to improve family well-being in Wisconsin’s highest-risk communities has won a Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment Award. One of just a handful of projects funded this year, the Positive Parenting Program (“Triple P) will enhance family well-being in 16 rural counties and tribal nations representing the highest-risk parts of Wisconsin.
Dr. Robert Nix, SoHE’s Integrated Specialist in Diverse and Underserved Children, Families, and Communities and Associate Professor of Human Development and Family Studies, and UW-Extension colleague Brook Berg, Program Manager for Family Engagement and Relationships in the Human Development and Relationships Institute, will run the two-year launch of the program to train and certify Division of Extension educators, who in turn will integrate Triple P into their existing suite of family programming.
“What’s unique about Triple P is its ‘something for everyone’ approach,” says Nix. “With four levels of engagement options for families, we can serve a much wider diversity of needs and really give communities a common language around parenting while also avoiding the potential stigma of participating in a program like this.”
The first level of Triple P is a public information and media campaign to inform all community members about ways to support children’s optimal development, like setting aside parent-child quality time; to acknowledge the common challenges of being a parent; and to normalize the process of seeking more information. The second level comprises multiple single-session educational seminars, appropriate for all parents, about effective behavior management practices, such as alternatives to physical punishment and ways to promote confidence and resilience in children. The third level provides short-term services to individual families or groups of parents facing common but more complicated childrearing challenges, like helping siblings get along. Finally, the fourth level of Triple P offers multiple-session therapeutic groups for parents struggling with more serious concerns, like child disobedience.
“Throughout this program, too, we’ll work in close partnership with a community’s established leaders and organizations, soliciting and incorporating their feedback and buy-in to improve delivery and local relevance in real time,” says Berg. Community-representative advisory boards and long-time Extension staff ensure an inclusive and sustainable infrastructure of support for the project, while also serving the aims of the award. The Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment award supports projects that promote “the advancement of the Wisconsin Idea… [with] new outreach and public engagement activities that partner with community and off-campus organizations to extend and apply our research, education, and practice-based knowledge to help solve problems or take advantage of opportunities.”
Nix and Berg’s project, with the generous support of Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin, hopes to address one component of the gap in outcomes between urban and rural children. When compared with their city counterparts, children in rural areas tend to do worse: they are more likely to live in poverty and to repeat grades in school, and their families have less access to social services and preventive medical care. The two-year, $110,000 support of the award, in conjunction with in-kind personnel match from Nix, Berg, and Extension educators, will cover the costs of Triple P training for educators in these 16 communities, with further payoffs anticipated in time: cost-effectiveness research suggests that communities save $7 to $10 on special education, mental health treatment, healthcare, and child protective services for every $1 spent on Triple P.
“The Baldwin funding provides communities across Wisconsin access to one of the strongest evidence-based parenting programs in the world,” Berg adds. “I can’t wait to see how Triple P serves families in the Badger State.”