Circle of Parents™ (formerly called “Parents Together”) is a network of professionally facilitated, peer-led, self-help support groups for parents. Circle of Parents groups are ongoing and meet weekly for 1 ½ to 2 hours. This program allows for parents to come together in a confidential setting to share their experiences, challenges and successes with parenting. Many parents come to the support groups because they feel isolated and alone; afraid that they might abuse their children; are experiencing conflict with a current or former partner on how to parent children; or simply because they want new parenting ideas as their children grow older. Attending a Circle of Parents meeting allows parents to: learn new ideas; replace old, harmful parenting ways with newer, healthier ways; and give and receive support to and from other parents.
Circle of Parents operates using a shared leadership model, where a PCAV professionally trained volunteer co-leads the group with a trained parent leader who is also a group member. Circle of Parents groups are always free of charge and childcare is provided for children of the parents attending the group.
Circle of Parents facilitators are trained by PCAV’s Family Support Programs Coordinators on the programs’ philosophy, curriculum, activities, and evaluation. Additionally, all volunteers receive training on the impact of substance abuse on the family, signs and symptoms of substance abuse and ways of intervening.
Circle of Parents Support Groups are evaluated through a survey that measures participants’ satisfaction with the group, as well as risk factors, protective factors, and parenting attitudes. The survey is conducted three times a year, which allows PCAV to see an accurate representation of the parents served through the groups. The survey asks parents questions such as, “Why did you become interested in a parent support group?” and “What keeps you coming to the group?” and gives parents a variety of choices that they can select. They are asked about how the group has helped them and what has changed in their life since being a part of the group. We feel that with these questions, we obtain an accurate picture of how Circle of Parents Support Groups are helping parents grow as parents and positively affect their relationships with their children.
Research shows that Circle of Parents is effective in decreasing the likelihood for child abuse and neglect. Circle of Parents simultaneously eliminates risk factors such as unrealistic expectations, destructive attitudes and harmful behaviors, while enhancing protective factors such as increased self-esteem, increased competencies, and provision of a nurturing environment for parents and their children. This approach has been identified as the most effective strategy for the prevention of child maltreatment. Parent support groups stop child physical abuse faster than any other form of treatment. Verbal and emotional abuse decreases in direct proportion to the length of time a parent remains in the group.