The Cortez-based DARE to be You program has been a player on the national stage since 1979, developing programs and curriculum designed to empower youths, families and communities.
Now, staff at the program are looking inward and using the newest curriculum in the programs arsenal to target nontraditional families in Montezuma County.
In April, DARE to be You, an affiliate of Colorado State University Extension, will offer the new Strong Extended Families program to the community.
DARE to be You is an evidence-based program that focuses on decision making, assertiveness, responsibility and esteem, which is where the title acronym originated. The new program builds on the success of the original program, said Renee Podunovich, DARE to be You program coordinator.
DARE to be You is used nationally to work with families and youth to enhance assets in youths and strengthen families, Podunovich said. (Strong Extended Families) is an addition to that where we are working with grandparents or other relatives who are raising grandchildren or other youth. That is a growing problem within the state and nation and is often related to substance abuse issues with the parents, though there are a variety of reasons kids are placed in relative care.
Data from the 2000 Census showed that 4.5 million children lived with the grandparents in the U.S. That statistic was up 30 percent from 1990. Data from the 2010 Census is not currently available.
Relatives caring for youths are typically an under-served population because while the children may qualify for foster care, often the relatives are not part of the foster system, Podunovich said.
About 24 percent of children in foster care are placed with relatives but many of those families arent necessarily part of social services, Podunovich said. In those cases they dont have access to some of those resources they need.
Strong Extended Families seeks to stand in the gap for those families by providing support and resources.
Participants in the program will meet once a week for four weeks. Each session will provided specific support for the displaced youths and the relative caregivers. Youths in the program will especially benefit from coping skills presented in the program, Podunovich said.
The caregivers and their youth and other youths in the family all attend together and they learn different skills, Podunovich said. There are activities for building positive self-concept and self-esteem and communication skills and decision making skills and learning about self responsibility.
The program also includes information on family dynamics when there is substance abuse in the home and family roles and relationships.
Kids need to understand the situation is not their fault, Podunovich said. They are not responsible for it, and they need the skills to cope. These are often very confusing situations for kids.
Caregivers will benefit from the support aspect from the program, particularly the monthly support group meetings that will follow the four-week program.
It really is a place they can find support, and we hope some of the class participants, the adult caregivers, will learn to facilitate the program for other families so there will be some program continuity and it will be more of a peer-to-peer program in the future.
Though this is the first time the full program will be offered in Montezuma County, the training has already been offered to a number of agencies in the Denver area, Podunovich said.
The program is made available to the Cortez community through a grant from The Brookdale Foundation and a donation from the local Kiwanis group, a sign of the amount of support the program has received from local agencies, Podunovich said.
There has been loads of support from a lot of local groups, she said. We really do need some support for these families. It is a unique and challenging and growing population.
The program will meet from 5:30 to 8 p.m. on Mondays, beginning April 25, at the DARE to be You program offices, 215 N. Linden, Suite E, Cortez. Cost for the program is $80 per family and includes dinner and supplies.
For more information, contact Podunovich at 565-3606.
On the Net: www.coopext.colostate.edu/DTBY
Reach Kimberly Benedict at [email protected]