There are a lot of options for parents regarding court-mandated parent education, also called “divorce education” or “coparenting education.” The Parents Forever™ curriculum is different from the competition for several reasons.
How Parents Forever™ works
The Extension Center for Family Development developed Parents Forever™ as a research-informed curriculum. The Parents Forever™ theory of change model describes how we believe the curriculum works. Our theory of change describes the impact we believe our curriculum will have, as well as the components that work together to achieve that impact.
Most curricula taught to parents experiencing divorce or separation focus almost exclusively on minimizing the impact of the family transition on the children. As a result, these curricula primarily address children’s needs and how parents can better meet those needs. These curricula might also address issues like anger and conflict, but always from the angle of how these issues affect children.
While it’s essential to help children cope with the effects of divorce or separation, parents need help facing challenges at this difficult time, too, and this is where Parents Forever™ stands apart from the competition: It focuses on the whole family — children and parents.
Parents Forever™ Theory of Change
Above is an illustration of the Parents Forever™ theory of change model. As the diagram shows, the Parents Forever™ curriculum focuses on three types of family relationships:
- Parents’ relationship with themselves, i.e., self-care.
- Parents’ relationship with their children.
- Parents’ coparenting relationship with each other.
We believe that these three sets of relationships work together in a family, and build off each other. For example, if parents engage in good self-care, they will be better able to take good care of their children. If parents are able to work through their own anger issues and embrace the need for both them to be involved in their children’s lives, these parents will be more likely to work on building a healthy coparenting relationship with each other.
Other benefits of Parents Forever™
Because of its focus on both parents and children, we in Extension believe that Parents Forever™ will benefit the entire family. Here are some other aspects of Parents Forever™ that make it the right choice for families.
Parents Forever™ is supported by the University of Minnesota. The Parents Forever™ curriculum was developed and continues to be supported and managed by staff at University of Minnesota Extension. Extension is charged with bringing the research and knowledge of the University to the citizens of Minnesota and beyond. Extension is not in this to make money, but rather to have a positive impact on individuals and families.
Parents Forever™ is informed by research. The Parents Forever™ curriculum is based on research about the impact of divorce and separation on families and how to not only survive, but thrive, after this family transition. With the most recent version of the curriculum, we have continued to further define and strengthen the research base for the program.
Parents Forever™ is connected with the court system. Since the early days of the program, we have worked closely with the Minnesota Supreme Court, to make Parents Forever™ what it is today. We view the Minnesota Supreme Court as our biggest supporter and partner in this important work. Likewise, facilitators and coordinator who run in-person programs often forge close relationships with their own county court and/or district court. We pledge to take the necessary steps to ensure that all Parents Forever™ courses, and the facilitators who teach those courses, meet and exceed the basic standards set by Minnesota state laws.
Parents Forever™ is based on “real life” parent and facilitator experience. We have a rich history in delivering Parents Forever™ in Minnesota and beyond. We have learned a lot in our 20+ years of teaching parents and working with professionals who facilitate and manage programs. We have incorporated that knowledge and experience into the latest version of the curriculum.
Parents Forever™ is continually improved. Extension is committed to continually updating and improving the Parents Forever™ curriculum to reflect new research, as well as feedback from participants and facilitators. A big part of our feedback and improvement loop is the collection of evaluation forms from course participants.
It’s very important that you ask participants to complete those forms after every class session you teach and to submit those evaluations back to the Parents Forever™ administrative office. The feedback on these forms will help us ensure that Parents Forever™ is “working” for parents and children building new lives after divorce or separation.