RIP Program Offers Help to Families
By: Staff Report
African-Americans Benefit From RIP
“I'm glad I'm here, I want everybody to know about [RIP]”; “It's an excellent program”; “My son has improved so much.” While these parents were initially skeptical about the benefits of RIP for an African American family, they all agreed with another parent who said, “I was glad to know a program like [RIP] exists.” These are just a few of the positive comments African- American parents made during several focus groups about the Regional Intervention Program (RIP).
RIP, launched in 1969 by Nashville educators, assists parents in helping their own preschool children with behavior problems. This parent-implemented program is one of only a few nationwide that focuses on early childhood intervention. Parents enrolled in RIP are trained to use positive behavior management techniques.
They are guided through their training and treatment by parent case managers who have graduated from the program with their own children and by professional resource consultants assigned to the families.
In its efforts to reach more minority families, RIP received a renewable grant from the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS), Office of Special Populations and Minority Services, in 2004. In collaboration with TDMHSAS, RIP has held several focus groups composed of African American families who were enrolled in the program between 1999-2004 to discuss how it could attract more minority families. Group members provided feedback about their experiences at RIP, discussing topics ranging from reasons for enrollment to program surprises.
Focus group families enrolled in RIP because of their children's problems at school and at home. Issues included aggressions, tantrums, back talk, non-compliance, sibling rivalry, defiance, anger, and even dismissal from daycare.
While focus group parents had initial concerns that most of the staff and other families enrolled at RIP were not African American, this never proved a problem. In the beginning, parents were reluctant to believe that the staff at RIP could really help an African American family. One parent admitted, “ I couldn't see how they were going to teach me how to care for my [African American] child.” This same parent added that “once I was able to get beyond that, then I was able to see the program [work].”
One parent said she “could see the staff were sincere.” Another parent reflected the attitude of other parents when she said she “couldn't recall ever having been in a situation at RIP when she felt any racial stress.”
Parents were often surprised at the success of the behavior management techniques. One parent noted “how quickly the techniques worked; within 1-2 weeks, things began to improve.” Another parent stated, “I've only been going [to RIP] for a month … and I took him to a restaurant last weekend and he was perfect…no [we couldn't do that before coming to RIP].”
“It is not uncommon for parents to find great improvement in their child's behavior in just the first few weeks, “ stated Nashville RIP Coordinator, Kate Kanies. “By this time they have learned and practiced two of RIP's eight behavior management strategies.”
Many African American parents were also surprised that RIP does not charge for its services. While it is true that RIP provides services at no financial cost to families, parents do “pay” for the help they receive through a unique system called payback treatment. During payback treatment, adults perfect the skills they have learned by teaching these skills to newly enrolled parents.
“Providing parents the opportunity to help other parents is one of RIP's greatest strengths,” Kanies explained. “The only criteria for admission to RIP are that the family has concern for the behavior of their preschool child under six years old, that at least one adult family member agrees to attend RIP with the child, and that the family commits to their payback obligation.
Many from the focus groups expressed how welcomed they felt at the program. RIP strives to bring together families from all ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds where they can share a common goal-- doing what's best for their children.
Anyone interested in contacting RIP for more information about enrolling in the program or about arranging for a RIP speaker may call 615-963-1177 or visit the website at www.ripnetwork.org. In addition to its headquarters in Nashville, RIP operates twelve programs across Tennessee. The Nashville program is part of the Children and Youth Program of Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute and funded through TDMHSAS.