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September 2005Vol. 6, No. 7Strategic Therapeutic Parenting for High-Risk Families

Families experiencing both child maltreatment and domestic violence have unique needs that often cannot be met by one agency. To provide mental health services to these families, the Children's Hospital and Health Center of San Diego developed the Strategic Therapeutic Parenting (STP) program. Since 2001, they have been testing and refining this unique mental health services program. The goals of this group-based intervention are to:

  • Increase positive parenting
  • Reduce conflict in the family
  • Increase coping skills for children

The STP program combines education and cognitive-behavioral therapy to serve every member of the family. Separate groups for mothers, fathers, and children address similar issues (e.g., safety, anger management, discipline) over the course of 12 sessions, with an overarching emphasis on identifying and building family strengths. Each group is facilitated by a therapist and a home visitor, who work together to support each other and model positive interactions.

An ongoing evaluation of the STP program is comparing families who received the STP intervention with families who received usual services. The families participate in a series of interviews and are compared on a number of measures of behavior and functioning. Families also are able to provide input about their experiences with the program. Initial results show a trend toward better outcomes for STP families.

STP staff are revising and preparing to publish the curriculum (which will be available in both English and Spanish), based on their experiences of "what works" and on feedback from families. Three manuals will eventually be made available: a parenting curriculum, a children's curriculum, and a staff training manual. Staff plan to disseminate their information through a website and are making conference presentations.

For more information about the program, contact:

Shelley Turner, LCSW
Program Coordinator
Strategic Therapeutic Parenting Program
Children's Hospital and Health Center
3020 Children's Way MC 5093
San Diego, CA 92123-4282
858.576.1700, ext. 6592

Note: The Strategic Therapeutic Parenting program was funded by the Children's Bureau, Grant 90-CA-1691, under the FY 2001 Field-Initiated Demonstration Projects Advancing the State of the Art in the Child Abuse and Neglect Field. This article is part of a series highlighting successful Children's Bureau Grant-funded projects around the country, emerging from official Children's Bureau site visits.