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Empowering Families to Help Teens Overcome Drugs, Alcohol, and Crime
by SUSAN RICHARDSON

After struggling for years to engage the community, a parent-led effort called Family Voices, part of the St. Clair County, Illinois, Youth Coalition, offers dinner, childcare, gas stipends and incentive cards to parents working to unite support systems.

Through the Family Leadership & Support Initiative Program, and exceptional leadership from Chris Hendrix, Kathy Coffee and Mary Pat DeJarnette, more than 30 actively involved parents attend monthly meetings to develop leadership skills and provide training for issues like children’s mental health, substance abuse, developmental disabilities and education.

The mission is twofold:

1) Empower families to advocate for themselves, and
2) Engage parents as partners in planning, implementing and evaluating community programs and services

St. Clair County Reclaiming Futures Treatment Fellow, Daron Copp, organizes and provides trainings about adolescent substance abuse treatment. He teaches about normal adolescent brain development and how substance use disrupts areas of the brain responsible for memory, concentration, planning and judgment.

Daron also reviews signs of adolescent substance abuse and gives parents an overview of the treatment system, so they understand assessment, treatment planning and interventions for adolescent substance abuse treatment.

Together, these partners are giving families the resources, training, and support they need to raise healthy children.

Through coordinated efforts and collaboration with community agencies, the program is preparing to celebrate the fourth annual Family Fun Night, when 200-300 parents and children will gather for games and food to learn about the resources available in St. Clair County, Illinois. 

Photo: Thing 1 and the Cat in the Hat at Family Fun Night 2011.


Susan Richardson is national executive director for Reclaiming Futures. Formerly, she was a senior program officer in the health care division of the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust in North Carolina, where she led a three-year effort involving the state's juvenile justice and treatment leaders to adopt the Reclaiming Futures model by juvenile courts in six North Carolina counties. She received her B.S. in Public Health, Health Policy and Administration, from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.