YLC with Georgetown University has developed and administers the Just Beginning Program (formerly known as the “Baby Elmo Program”), a structured visitation program which allows incarcerated teen parents to maintain contact with their children and provide them with the ability to improve their parenting. The intent of the program is to begin to give teen parents the ability and incentive to become competent committed parents by giving them the tools to communicate and build a positive relationship with their child.
The program is video based, using the Sesame Beginnings videos. The class includes a hands-on visitation component, in which the incarcerated teen parent plays with his or her child. The visits serve as an incentive, not only to learn about parenting, but also for improved behavior in the facility and participation in habilitative activities. The training also includes an instruction manual for the teacher.
Just Beginning benefits the teen parent and the baby in the following ways:
- Increased contact with the community outside of Juvenile Hall is a benefit to detainees;
- Youth experience behavior improvements after just 1 month of program participation;
- Young parents view themselves as competent and responsible members of the community; and
- Babies benefit from the increased skills of their parent and the parent’s continued involvement.
Currently Just Beginning is in six county probation departments in California as well as the Cuyahoga Hills Juvenile Correctional Facility in Ohio and the Connecticut Juvenile Training School. The Youth Law Center is working with Rachel Barr, Ph.D. of Georgetown University, who has done direct research on the impact of television on parent/child interactions.
“The staff and kids at the Youth Guidance Center LOVE the parenting program initiated by the Youth Law Center in collaboration with Georgetown University. It has transformed the attitude and behavior of some of the most hard to reach kids that have serious histories in drug use and gang activity. It gives them purpose in life and a vision of a future.” -Colleene Preciado, Retired Orange County Chief Probation Officer