At the end of October 2010, a creative and unique partnership between local agencies and non-profit organizations generated an unusual program for male inmates incarcerated at the Klickitat County Jail.
Those who had children were provided an opportunity to take part in a five-week parenting class. Funded through a grant from United Way, the classes were held in the jail library with Melody Bazzel of Programs for Peaceful Living and Johanna Roe with the Skamania Klickitat Community Network.
Using the nationally recognized parent support program "Becoming a Love and Logic Parent," the two instructors led a group of inmates through lessons offering practical skills on talking with children, reducing stress in the family, effective discipline, empathy and responsibility.
The program uses DVDs, slide shows and shared classroom discussions to present the information.
Organizers are now doing it again. Beginning Jan. 28, they are back at the jail, working again with dads behind bars.
Dixie Keffeler supervises operations at the Klickitat County Jail. She supports the program, and notes that the first series went "very well," with six inmates graduating from the first class. Twelve originally signed up and began attending, but a number were released prior to completion of the full program.
"This was probably the first time most of these guys have ever been introduced to the idea there are positive ways to raise kids," said Larry Barker, Klickitat County's Chief Adult Probation Officer. "This is a great time to work with these dads. While they are here, having this chance to learn some common-sense parenting skills makes a lot of sense."
The two instructors have worked together on other projects that support families. Last spring they put on a program in Skamania County using the Strengthening Families drug and alcohol prevention curriculum.
"When I learned United Way had approved the grant I'd written to do this, the first person I thought of was Melody," said Johanna Roe. "She's taught "Love and Logic" here in Goldendale a lot, so I knew she'd be just the right person to partner with. We both have kids, so hopefully we are able to connect with these dads and let them know all parents have tough times. What we want to have them realize is there are healthier ways than drugs, alcohol and violence to deal with the pressures all families face."
In addition to the parenting program that is offered, Bazzel and Roe share information about other resources and supports available for families.
Programs for Peaceful Living, a division of Washington Gorge Action Programs, works to prevent domestic violence, sexual assault and child sexual abuse from taking place. It has offices in both Goldendale and White Salmon. Programs for Peaceful Living maintains a Child Advocacy Center used for local investigations of child abuse cases.
The Skamania Klickitat Community Network operates in both counties, supporting programs that work to strengthen families by reducing child abuse and neglect, youth substance abuse and domestic violence.
The Network has a lending library with books, curriculum, handouts and videos available that concentrate on parenting matters and frequently sponsors parenting classes and other activities.