March 21st, 2014

Baby Elmo Program Teaches Young Parents to Do the KIND Thing

By KIND Editor

There’s a reason why we encourage everyone to always Do the KIND Thing. Here at KIND, we are committed to making the world a little kinder, one act at a time. KIND recently awarded a $10,000 grant through Stanford Lawyer magazine to support legal organizations who are working to bring more kindness to the justice system. The recipients of the grant, San Francisco’s Youth Law Center, are behind the Baby Elmo Program, a parenting course offered to young parents in the juvenile justice system.

The challenges of rehabilitation for youth in juvenile hall are many, particularly for teenagers whose own fathers—and often grandfathers—were distant figures, in and out of jail themselves. And many of these kids already have children of their own, continuing the pattern they know only too well.

Lawyers in the Bay Area are trying to break the cycle for young parents in juvenile halls with an innovative program developed by the Youth Law Center (YLC). Launched in 2007, the “Baby Elmo Program” is a 10-session parenting course that offers teen parents not only time with their young children but also the tools necessary to learn how to parent. Under the supervision of specially trained custodial staff, young parents are provided a safe, kid-friendly environment where they have regular hands-on lessons and playtime with their children.

“We were thrilled to receive such quality submissions, many of which looked to bring more kindness into the justice system,” said Daniel Lubetzky, founder and CEO of KIND and Stanford Law alum. “The Baby Elmo Program does just that, and we are thrilled to partner with it to launch the pilot program to further the mission.”

Started as a way to strengthen the bond between young parents and their children, the Baby Elmo Program has become much more. Juvenile hall staff members have seen the benefits of the program in the improved behavior of the young inmates. Ben Richeda, YLC’s special project manager, recalls one particularly tough case of a young man, who was about 16 years old. He was getting into fights each week with rival gang members and losing his privileges. When the YLC started the program at this young man’s facility, the staff there didn’t want him to participate because of his behavior. But he completed the full 10 sessions with his 1-year-old son—and surprised everyone. “He stopped getting into fights so that he wouldn’t miss the program and he completely turned around. He started talking about doing things with his son that he’d never even done himself, like camping. He’s now out of juvenile hall, working full time and living with his son and the mother of his child.”

Do you have an idea that can help make the world a kinder place? Submit your project ideas at KINDprojects.com and you could be the next recipient of a $10,000 grant. You can also browse projects and pledge your support by doing something kind.

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