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The Illinois Campaign to Prepare Tomorrow's Parents
Carol Lewke, 1-561/620-0256, carolewke@preparetomorrowsparents.org
Dana McDermott, Ph.D., DePaul University 312-362-5111, dmcderm2@depaul.edu

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Illinois Campaign to Prepare Tomorrow’s Parents Joins

New organization works to bring Parenting Education to Illinois children and teens

Your City. The Illinois Campaign to Prepare Tomorrow's Parents announces its participation in the sixth national "Prepare Tomorrow’s Parents Month" between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day - a time for teachers, parents and youth group leaders nationwide to introduce Parenting Education to young people. The Illinois Campaign is a new affiliate of Prepare Tomorrow's Parents, a national, non-profit organization formed in 1995 to promote and facilitate Parenting Education for children and teens. Prepare Tomorrow’s Parents Month is an annual effort to promote including Parenting Education in schools and youth programs for all young people.

“Parenting a child is the most noble and important job we will ever do for our families and for our society," says Carol Lewke, Chicago-based Co-Director of the Illinois Campaign and former president of Prepare Tomorrow’s Parents. “What parents don’t know can interfere with children reaching their potential. It can even cause tremendous damage, particularly early on when they are the primary caretakers of vulnerable infants.”

To honor mothers and fathers and celebrate effective parenting, we ask everyone who has regular contact with a young person to do one activity this month to develop their potential for nurturing. We also urge people who care about children to explore their community’s opportunities and potential for children and teens to learn about parenting, and to advocate where needed.

The Illinois Campaign is joined by a growing list of partners, including: DePaul University M.A. Program in Applied Professional Studies: Parenting Education and Support; Illinois Association for Infant Mental Health; Illinois Association of Family and Consumer Sciences; Illinois Family and Consumer Sciences Teachers Association; Kendall College Early Childhood Education Program; and Sudden Infant Death Services of Illinois.

The stakes are high. Just under 80% of perpetrators of child abuse and neglect are parents, and nearly all the rest are relatives or other caregivers. Lack of knowledge of child development and appropriate discipline are significant factors in abuse and neglect. Many other inadequately prepared or supported parents are unable to provide the good parenting that is known to deter teen pregnancy, depression, addictions, academic failure, delinquency and later criminal behavior.

According to a national poll, the vast majority of U.S. adults believe that parenting and relationship skills should be taught in schools. In fact, this idea is not new to Illinois.

A movement in Illinois over twenty years ago attempted to legislate parenting education across all grades. Although the Illinois School Code indicates that “School districts may provide instruction in parenting education for [credit in] grades 6 through 12,” listing a strong array of topics and providing for state assistance to districts with such curricula; and although eighty percent of these young people will become parents, very few students and almost no boys receive this critical educational component. Yet, in the past two decades, research has taught us extensively about how to grow physically, emotionally, and cognitively sound babies and children; as well as how to prevent abuse and neglect.

While Illinois is to be applauded as the first state to require providing pre-school for all three and four year olds, prepared parents are critical from the outset. State legislators need to go a step further and also require child-rearing classes before high school graduation, as New York State has done.

In developing child-rearing curricula there is no need to start from scratch. Some excellent programs exist already. Family and Consumer Science teachers are already qualified and prepared, and there are many ways to integrate this learning into the current school coursework at all grade levels. This learning can also take place in youth groups and other community settings.

Studies have shown that school-based Parenting Education programs help prevent child abuse by building understanding of child development and parenting skills such as empathy, listening, and problem-solving. Students who understand the enormous responsibilities of raising a child are also far more motivated to delay parenting until they are ready.

In addition, “these programs help students learn to care for each other, thus eliminating much bullying and conflict that currently impedes learning. Further, such programs help students build critical thinking and reasoning skills that help them in terms of their academic success in school,” notes DePaul University professor and Illinois Campaign Co-Director Dana McDermott.

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“No one doubts that the most effective way to teach important skills -- reading, writing, math etc. -- is in schools. What could be more important than the skill of being a good parent?” concludes McDermott.

Parents, teachers and all adults who care about children are invited to visit the comprehensive website www.preparetomorrowsparents.org year-round for ideas for activities, including simple and engaging steps to take at home, as well as classroom-ready learning experiences for use by parents, teachers, and youth leaders from Brownies and Boy Scouts to faith-based youth groups. The website also lists Family and Consumer Sciences contact information, and over a dozen flexible independent Parenting Education programs that are already available to schools.

The Illinois Campaign to Prepare Tomorrow's Parents is an affiliate of Prepare Tomorrow’s Parents, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting and facilitating Parenting Education for children and teenagers. To learn more about the benefits of Parenting Education for young people and the programs available, visit www.preparetomorrowsparents.org or call 1-561/620-0256.

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