Parents survey about alcohol to launch Tuesday

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

Parents will have the chance to share their thoughts about youth alcohol consumption.

The Dubois County Community Addiction and Recovery Education and Support Coalition, better known as Dubois County CARES, is opening on Tuesday an online survey to gather parents’ perspectives.

“The parent survey will really open up the opportunity for us to find out what we don't know so that we can explore further. It's part of an ongoing process,” said Tara Carlisle, Dubois County CARES coordinator. “The more participation we have, the better idea we are going to have on what they really think.”

Getting parental input is important, because parents play a big role in their children’s drinking habits and patterns.

“So frequently we say, ‘Oh, it's, you know, the media that influences my kid. It's peers that influence may kid.’ Absolutely those things influence your child's decision,” she said. “But research has indicated that parental involvement, strong family relationships, those things are so important in increasing our protective factors.”

The survey is for parents of Dubois County children in grades six to 12. The survey will be available in English and Spanish.

CARES is looking for input from parents whose children have not used alcohol as well as parent whose children have.

“Our coalition wants to bring the voice of parents into the conversation. We hope to learn their personal beliefs and perceptions about youth alcohol use in our county,” Carlisle said. “So even if a parent is certain that their child hasn't or won't consume alcohol, it's still really critical that we hear their opinion regarding what they think about the issue.”

CARES is working with the national Community Anti-Drug Coalitions and participated last year in the organization’s National Coalition Academy. The academy is a training program that teaches coalitions what they need to know, called core competencies, and what they need to do, called essential processes, to establish or maintain a highly effective anti-drug coalition.

By the end of the year-long training, which CARES has completed, coalitions are developing for their communities an assessment, a logic model, a strategic and action plan, an evaluation plan and a sustainability plan.

“This past year we got to the basics, to say, ‘What do we think is happening in our community?’ and ‘How can we move from assumption to assessment?’ We want to make sure that instead of just gathering ideas about it, that we actually have reason to believe that something's happening,” Carlisle said.

CARES gets valuable information from the Indiana Youth Survey that is conducted annually through the schools. It's self-reported, with students reporting on their past 30 days of substance use specific to that substance, Carlisle said.

“We know, for instance, that in the past five years, reported past 30-day alcohol use by high school kids has gone down a little bit. But, we know that it's increased for junior-high-age students, with youth as young as grade six reporting past 30-day alcohol usage,” she said. “And I think, as a community, we can all agree that we're not OK with that. We can do better by our kids.

“Ultimately, we all want our kids to be healthier. So having that quantitative data is great,” she said. “But now we need to learn more about: Why here? Why us? Why our kids?”

As part of the local assessment, Dubois County CARES has conducted interviews with leaders in the community, in the schools, in health care and in law enforcement, asking what they believe is going on and how they believe we can fix it. CARES is also looking to get more youth input by conducting focus groups sometime this year.

But the organization also wants the parents’ perspective.

“The parents are is a really important piece of it,” Carlisle said. “Parents know and understand their children better than anyone. They play a major role in preventing substance misuse, and in helping their children out if they've already used.”

The goal is to have more information about what is happening here regarding youth and alcohol, why it is happening and what the community can do to deter that usage.

“Specific to alcohol, it's about delaying that onset of use. We know that there is absolutely no such thing as low-risk drinking under 21. No such thing,” Carlise said. “But we do have some misconceptions, like if we as parents host a party and take away the keys, we're protecting our kids. Well, we're protecting our kids from driving in a car [at that time], but there are still some risks involved.”

CARES plans to dispense what it learns to the community.

“This is an ongoing community assessment. We will take this information and get it back out to the community, because this coalition and the work of this coalition belongs to Dubois County,” Carlisle said. “We want to make sure that everyone, whether they be a business or a parent or a youth, that everyone is empowered with the same information, so that we can really make some changes and to help give our kids the opportunity to be as healthy and successful in the future as they can be.”

CARES will also formulate intentional evidence-based strategies designed to combat the specific issues identified in the assessment.

“Our coalition takes it and says, ‘Okay, we know that this is the issue. How are we as a community going to work towards creating a solution?’” Carlisle said. “That's the whole purpose of Dubois County CARES. That's what we do.”

The link for the parents survey will be on Dubois County CARES’ website, duboiscountycares.org, and its Facebook page. Local schools and member groups of the CARES coalition will also share the link.

Parents who fill out the survey in the first week, before Feb. 16, could be eligible to win a $50 gift certificate. Parents who fill it out within the second week will be eligible to win a $25 gift certificate.




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