The Camden County Child Advocacy Council (CAC) is hoping The Family Project will help “at-risk” kids enhance their relationship with their parent or guardian though better communication and trust.

Our kids are listening, but what are they hearing?

Intuition backed by research says that the relationship between youth and parent is incredibly important short and long term, which is why the Camden County Child Advocacy Council (CAC) is hoping The Family Project will help “at-risk” kids enhance their relationship with their parent or guardian though better communication and trust.

“We want to help kids make good choices. Research has shown that kids with a good relationship with a parent or guardian or even stepparent or case manager can be preventative [of substance abuse and health issues],” said Nancy Pope with CAC. “We were brainstorming and came up with this idea.”

According to Pope, they have received a mini-grant from ACT Missouri to hold three team-building events throughout the year at Windermere Conference Center for children considered at-risk and their parent/guardian/stepparent/foster parent or even case manager.

A maximum of 30 people per event (a combination of children and caretakers) will go through the high and low ropes course, zip line and free climb at Windermere.

A physical course, The Edge requires people to work together in teams and trust each other throughout each step along the way, says Pope.

The grant provides CAC $4,411 to cover the basic cost of the events, and the CAC plans to work with the community to also provide t-shirts and a meal for the groups at the end of each event. Communication and team skills will also be discussed with these families.

CAC plans to work with the Missouri State Children’s Division, the Camden County Juvenile Office, Horizons Alternative School and Compass Health to identify high risk youth who could benefit from this program.

According to the grant application, the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE) shows a strong correlation between exposure to abuse, domestic violence and household family dysfunction during childhood to multiple risk behaviors and diseases in adulthood, such as alcoholism, drug abuse, suicide attempts, criminal behavior.

The high risk youth who would go through this new CAC program would be those identified by the partner agencies as meeting two of seven categories in the ACE. The seven categories include physiological, sexual or physical abuse; violence against mother; living with household members who were substance abusers; mentally ill or suicidal caregiver; or ever imprisoned family member.

The grant application indicates one of the goals of the project is to reduce substance use for Camden County children grades 6-12.

The program is also an experiment, so the youth and parent will both take pre- and post-tests to try to help gauge short-term learning from the experience. The agencies referring these families will also complete an assessment rating change in the youth who participate.

The short-term goal of The Family Project is to show in the 2018 Missouri Student Survey a decrease of 2 percent in the number of students who believe alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana are easy to procure.

Intermediate goals include diminished need for contact between partner agencies and high risk youth, outcomes for youth from referral sources through assessments and improving health outcomes.

Long-term, CAC hopes that there will be less use and abuse of alcohol, drugs and tobacco for high risk youth, as assessed through the Missouri Student Survey. Their goal is to reduce abuse by 2 percent in a 30-day use period. Reducing the risk for health care issues like depression and suicide attempts is also a long-term goal.

CAC believes the project may also have a ripple effect, possibly impacting siblings and peers of youth who go through the program.

ACT Missouri is a private not-for-profit organization established to promote alcohol and drug abuse awareness throughout Missouri.

If you would like a member of Child Advocacy Council to speak before your organization or group about the Family Project or any of the other activities of Child Advocacy Council, please call 346-0003.