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Parents have an ESCAPE plan

January 28, 2002

Parents have an ESCAPE plan



By STACEY DANZUSO
chbbureau@innernet.net


CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - For better or worse, parents are the strongest influence in their children's lives.

Parent education classes sponsored by the ESCAPE Parent/Child Center in Chambersburg aim to prevent child abuse by giving adults the tools they sometimes lack when it comes to parenting.

"We try to parent the parent," said Hope Clever, executive director of the nonprofit agency.

The classes offer parents ways to deal with stress, tips for relating to their children differently based on their birth order and teaches the difference between discipline and punishment.

At a recent class, 14 parents talked about what roles they played in their families growing up from the "good kid" to the "rebel," and how that role could define them as an adult.

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"I described myself as a clown. I was the one who was funny so dad wouldn't be mad," Clever said.

ESCAPE will offer 26 six-week parenting classes this year.

The two-hour classes are informal, allowing parents to bounce their feelings or thoughts off one another and Clever, or other counselors who lead the sessions.

"It's not like school. You get involved in conversation," Clever said.

Each class offers new "tools" in building a stable family structure.

"We talk about learning and how to listen and communicate with children, how to help the child develop self-esteem," Clever said.

The free classes began in 1998 and are paid for by the Franklin County Human Services department and grants from other agencies.

The classes are offered year-round during the day, in the evenings and on Saturdays to accommodate everyone's schedules.

Some classes are general parenting session, others are geared to parents with children that are infants up to age 5.

The mission of the ESCAPE center is to fight child abuse. Children killed by their parents are most likely to be between the ages of 0 and 5, Clever said.

Other classes target parents of teenagers or parents with children who are bipolar or diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactive disorder.

"There is so much of that, and parents don't know how to cope," she said. "Often the parents have it, too."

ESCAPE is holding a new class in March called "Coping with the Blues" for parents of depressed teens.

"Sixty percent of parents with depressed kids are depressed themselves. Kids absorb what their parents are," Clever said.

Classes are held in churches and halls around Chambersburg and Waynesboro, Pa., until ESCAPE is able to purchase its own facility.

While the classes are open to all residents, most are referred by the county because their child is in the juvenile probation system or as a result of a court order during a divorce proceeding.

The classes are made up of a mix of young couples and single parents like Debbie Laughman, who is raising three boys, ages 11, 13, and 15.

Laughman, of Shippensburg, Pa., took a parenting class when her boys were in elementary school.

"With the ages they are now the parenting methods are a lot different," she said.

The next two general parent education classes begin Feb. 27 and March 12. Childcare is always available during the classes.

For more information, call 1-717-263-7707.

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