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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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NMSU reaches out to families at-risk

Helping incarcerated fathers improve their parenting skills and families improve their relationships is the aim of two innovative new programs from the family and child science department in New Mexico State University's College of Agriculture and Home Economics.

grams, geared toward family wellness and responsible fatherhood, are funded by two separate grants the department was awarded by the U.S. Administration for Children and Families. The grants total $794,000 and are renewable for up to five years.

"We're teaching families the skills they need to have healthy relationships, like communication, conflict resolution and effective discipline," said Esther Devall, professor of family and child science.

One of the initiatives, the Incarcerated Fathers Program, was implemented last October. Already completed by 14 Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility inmates, the voluntary program offers parenting classes to incarcerated fathers once a week for 15 weeks. Five more classes are planned.

During these classes, incarcerated fathers take parenting courses and create projects based on their children's interests, which are then mailed to the child. The fathers' 'parenting partners,' the individuals raising the children, receive the same curriculum as the fathers.

"This program is helping me learn how to raise my children in a positive way," a program graduate said.

The second program, a family wellness initiative, offers classes to teach families skills to strengthen their relationships. Healthy ways to solve problems are a major component of the program, which hopes to reach 270 adults and their children in Dona Ana County and Albuquerque.

Eighteen 12-week classes will be offered in both English and Spanish. Free to participants, classes will begin in February, and all families with children are welcome. Anyone interested in participating should call (505) 646-4360.

The department received two of only 226 grants funded nationwide. The grants were awarded in fall 2006.

These programs are part of NMSU's continuing outreach efforts to help educate and improve the lives of New Mexico citizens.