Parenting educators, researchers share wisdom

Jutta Dotterweich
Mark Vorreuter
Jutta Dotterweich, training and technical assistance coordinator for the ACT for Youth Project in the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research, presents the latest national adolescent health statistics to the group.
Rachel Dunifon
Mark Vorreuter
Rachel Dunifon, professor of policy analysis and management and director of the Parenting in Context initiative, speaks to Cornell Cooperative Extension parent educators.

If it’s true that parenting is the world’s hardest job, the Cornell Parenting in Context initiative helps to ease the demands by offering families research-based child-rearing programs led by parent educators statewide.

On Jan. 28-29, nearly 30 Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) parent educators from 11 counties in New York gathered on campus to hear Cornell experts discuss their latest findings on raising children – from infancy to young adulthood. The group also used the annual in-service meeting to share best practices, grow their professional skills and identify areas for further study.

“The goal is to give extension educators new tools and information that they can use in their programming with families across New York,” said Rachel Dunifon, professor of policy analysis and management and director of the Parenting in Context initiative in the College of Human Ecology’s Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research. “However, I always come away from these events convinced that I have learned much more than they have. They are an amazing group of professionals committed to making a difference in the lives of those doing some of the most challenging work there is – raising children.”

Among the topics covered: associate professor of policy analysis and management Maureen Waller’s research on low-income fathers; the latest national statistics on adolescent sexual health, along with related programs to help parents of teens; and tips for coping with so-called boomerang children – college graduates who can’t find work and return to live under their parents’ roof.

“The presentations and research findings shared by faculty were quite important as they directly impact our local work with parents and professionals,” said Denyse Variano, family and consumer sciences issue leader for CCE Orange County. “Not only are we exposed to the newest research in our field, but also have the opportunity to engage with faculty and peers about matters of mutual interest and statewide concern.”

Variano and four parent educators led a panel presentation to share successes from their counties, such as a new parenting survey and blog developed by CCE Suffolk County educators. She said that the conference’s highlight was a presentation by Christopher Watkins, the newly appointed director of Cornell Cooperative Extension, where the group “talked candidly about issues of interest and concern.”

“The Parenting in Context program is an excellent example of the campus-association connection that underpins the strength of Cornell Cooperative Extension,” Watkins said. “I especially enjoyed the interaction with the group as it reinforced that whatever the subject matter, CCE is an organization with passionate and committed individuals.”

Dunifon also presented figures showing what she called “the impressive reach” of CCE parent education programs statewide. Last year, nearly 730 New Yorkers participated in workshops and other programs, and collectively they had improved nine out of 10 parenting skills by the programs’ end, she said.

Ted Boscia is director of communications and media for the College of Human Ecology

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