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Grant reaches out to parents to prevent underage drinking

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Stacy Vogel
November 1, 2008
— A sign on Brad Demrow’s door at Partners in Prevention reads, “Whenever a young person drinks, an adult is involved in some way.”

So the organization is targeting adults in an effort to prevent underage drinking in Edgerton.


Partners in Prevention hired Demrow in April through a three-year, $470,000 grant from the Wisconsin Partnership Program, administered through the UW School of Medicine and Public Health.


The main focus of the grant project is starting a parent mentoring group in Edgerton that will help parents create positive experiences for children, making them less tempted to drink.


Partners in Prevention chose Edgerton because students there reported more alcohol use than their peers in a biennial survey from the Search Institute, Demrow said.


The institute, based in Minnesota, believes “developmental assets” such as family support, adult role models and creative activities make children less tempted to drink, and it includes the assets in its survey. Local parents and advocacy groups were disturbed when, in 2005, just 22 percent of Edgerton students said the community values youth.


The project hopes that by improving these assets in Edgerton, it can decrease underage drinking, Demrow said.


“It could be something as simple as eating meals together as a family to students feeling supported by school staff,” he said.


The goal is to train parents of children grades 6 through 12 before the students ever start drinking. Demrow said the group adapted the plan from a mentor network for parents of children with chronic illnesses.


Mentors will meet with parents in four one-on-one sessions, offering parenting strategies, resources, ways to build positive experiences and warning signs of risky behavior.


“This is really to get parents discussing these types of issues with another parent in a confidential setting.”


The project already has found four volunteer mentors. They will be trained in the next few months, and Demrow hopes to start matching mentors with parents in early 2009.


Paula Forss is one of the mentors. She’s become concerned about underage drinking since her children have become adolescents, she said.


“There’s just a lot of underage drinking and drug use in Rock County, and Edgerton has been pointed at,” she said. “We’re finding as our kids get older that there’s a lot of that activity going on.”


Partners in Prevention has teamed up with the Rock County Health Department to run the project, which also includes a community assessment and billboards discouraging underage drinking.


Officials are excited about the prevention aspect of the project, said Lori McMillan, Rock County health educator.


“Usually with prevention, it’s hard to get the dollars,” she said.



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