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February 2009Vol. 10, No. 1Parent Education for Migrant Families

Migrant and seasonal agricultural workers and their families often face poverty and acculturation difficulties that can result in negative health, education, and juvenile justice outcomes for their children. In an effort to reduce family conflict and improve parent-child relationships, the Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic (YVFWC) provides Spanish-language parenting classes to low-income migrant families in Washington State. The classes help parents develop nonpunitive discipline skills, deal with the stressors of acculturation, improve family communication, and understand U.S. child abuse and neglect laws.

YVFWC uses the "Los Niños Bien Educados" curriculum, a program developed by the Center for the Improvement of Child Caring in southern California. "Los Niños" is not a translation of an existing program, but rather was developed specifically to meet the needs of Spanish-speaking immigrant families in the western United States. The curriculum builds on the cultural strengths and traditions of these families. Three-hour classes are offered twice a week for 6 weeks at a local community center, with 20 to 25 parents enrolled in each session. Two certified instructors teach the curriculum using interactive class discussions and role-play activities; they encourage parents to practice skills at home with their children and report back on their experiences. Instructors also refer parents to community services whenever possible to help families meet their basic needs. The services the program provides and the social support network the classes create among attendees have proven to be beneficial to otherwise isolated rural families.

Staff identify several strategies that contribute to the program's overall success:

  • Offering snacks and developmentally appropriate child care during class encourages parents' continued attendance.
  • Employing a full-time coordinator increases the recruitment, engagement, and retention of families in the program.
  • Providing committed, well-trained instructors improves outcomes for enrolled families.
  • Creating partnerships with other community service providers contributes to the program's sustainability.

Recent evaluations suggest the program has been successful in many areas. In a 2-year period, more than 75 percent of migrant parents attended at least 8 of 12 classes. A large majority of parents reported positive outcomes in the following areas: improved family communication, elimination of punitive discipline techniques, improved access to support services, and increased satisfaction with their child's behavior. In addition, more than 65 percent of children whose parents enrolled in the program showed measurable behavioral improvements.

The program is currently undergoing a retrospective analysis dating back to its creation in 1993. Staff plan to continue improving evaluation efforts with the long-term goal of classifying their curriculum as an evidence-based practice for the prevention of child abuse and neglect.

For more information, contact:
Lisa Campbell-John
Community Health Services, Program Operations
PO Box 190
518 W. 1st Avenue
Toppenish, WA 98948

The Spanish Language Parenting Education Program is funded by the Children's Bureau, Grant 90CA1731, under the Children's Bureau Priority Area: Grants to Tribes, Tribal Organizations, and Migrant Programs for Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention Programs. This article is part of a series highlighting successful Children's Bureau grant-funded projects around the country, emerging from Children's Bureau site visits.

Related Item

Read reports from other Children's Bureau site visits by going to the Site Visit Report Discretionary Grant webpage on the Child Welfare Information Gateway website: