Parents Anonymous®

About This Program

Target Population: Parents, grandparents, relative and kin providers, foster parents, or anyone serving in a parenting or caregiver role and children and youth of all ages with behavioral health, substance use disorders, and wellness concerns

For children/adolescents ages: 0 – 18

For parents/caregivers of children ages: 0 – 18

Program Overview

Parents Anonymous® is designed to be both a prevention and treatment program that strengthens families that are at risk of becoming (or already are) involved in the child welfare system, have behavioral health challenges, or face other family issues. It is open to any parent or caregiver in a parenting role who is seeking support, positive nurturing, and parenting strategies regardless of the age or special challenges of their children or youth including severe emotional concerns. Services include weekly support groups, parent partner services (such as advocacy, kinship navigator services, in-home parenting, and supportive services including linkages to community resources), and helpline services. The Parents Anonymous® program aims to mitigate the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) for parents/caregivers and prevent the occurrence of ACEs for their children and teens. The program also aims to build on the strengths of all family members and enhance family well-being by increasing protective factors through trauma-informed practices.

Program Goals

The goals of Parents Anonymous® are:

  • Strengthen families by improving social, emotional, and behavioral well-being of parents/caregivers, children, and youth
  • Prevent child abuse and neglect by ensuring safe, stable, and nurturing relationships for families
  • Mitigate the impact in parents/caregivers of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and prevent ACEs in children and youth
  • Increase protective factors, reduce risk factors, and significantly eliminate harmful behaviors towards children by supporting the personal growth and change and the empowerment of families
  • Enhance the social and emotional well-being of children, youth, parents, and caregivers by increasing parental and child/youth resilience, achieving positive personal growth and change, and improving family functioning, self-esteem, compassion, and happiness
  • Foster an international network of Nationally Certified Parent Leaders through training, action planning, and guided practice on the 10 Exemplary Leadership Practices and implement Shared Leadership® in Action to ensure meaningful systems reform and policy changes
  • Engage in meaningful Shared Leadership® to create systems change in child welfare, behavioral health, schools, health care, juvenile and adult justice, courts, schools, early childhood care and education, and developmental disabilities
  • Achieve safety, permanency, and reduce out-of-home placements for child-welfare-involved families and increase reunifications
  • Establish meaningful opportunities for parent and youth partners to develop leadership competencies to give back to their communities; ensure public policies are designed to meet the needs of diverse families and are responsive by creating measurable positive results; and produce better long-term outcomes for families
  • Prevent and reduce hospitalizations for mental health problems; prevent and treat substance use disorders; and prevent and address domestic violence

Logic Model

View the Logic Model for Parents Anonymous®.

Essential Components

The essential components of Parents Anonymous® include:

  • Four therapeutic processes resulting in positive outcomes for parents, children, and youth:
    • Mutual support
    • Parent leadership
    • Shared Leadership®
    • Personal growth and change to foster well-being
  • Parents Anonymous® programs are responsive to the cultural and ethnic diversity of the parents, children, and youth being served.
  • All Parents Anonymous® services are provided by Trained Staff and Parent Advocates who have achieved research-based competencies.
  • Following the Parents Anonymous® National Benchmarks and Standards of Practice for each program:
    • All Parents Anonymous® Adult Groups:
      • Must have at least one trained and supervised Group Facilitator who:
        • Acts a resource to parents
        • Fosters mutual support
        • Fosters Parent Leaders and Shared Leadership®
        • Foster personal growth and change
        • Meets all 36 Research-Based Competencies
      • Must have at least one trained and supported Parent Group Leader who is:
        • A member of the group serving in a leadership capacity
        • Striving to achieve better outcomes for their families
        • Striving to give back through meaningful Shared Leadership® by transforming communities through policy reform, systems change, and the expansion of evidence-based programs
      • Meet weekly, for 2 hours, at a designated time and place, and in a location that is safe and free of stigma
      • Maintain confidentiality and ensure cultural responsiveness
      • Must not charge a fee for parents or children to attend Parents Anonymous® groups
      • Focus on improving protective factors and reducing risk
      • Foster the personal change of parents by supporting their empowerment strategies to advocate for themselves and their families
      • Encourage parents to seek support and referrals by calling the National Parent Helpline® and reaching out to one another, the parent group leader, and/or the group facilitator between weekly Parents Anonymous® meetings to receive both supportive services and Parent Partner and Navigator supports.
      • Encourage parents to join Parents Anonymous® groups at any time and participate for any length of time
      • Give all parent members the I Am A Parents Anonymous® Parent (IPAP) handbook (available in English and Spanish) and other resource materials
      • Encourage, train, and support all parents to be in leadership roles within and outside of the Parents Anonymous® program by having them become a Nationally Certified Parent Leader
      • Celebrate National Parent Leadership Month® and be active in the Parent Leadership Network
    • All Parents Anonymous® Children and Youth Groups:
      • Must have trained Children and Youth Group Facilitators
      • Meet in groups formed based on the child's/youth's developmental age
      • Have the mission of enhancing the emotional growth and social development of children and youth of all ages (0-18)
      • Strive to create an environment where children can achieve the following goals based on the four tenets of Parents Anonymous®:
        • Develop healthy social skills and build resiliency
        • Express core emotions utilizing meditation, mindfulness, laughing, singing and appropriate hugging
        • Increase understanding and tolerance of others
        • Enhance interpersonal problem solving and communications skills
        • Develop coping and problem solving skills
        • Improve self-control and resiliency
        • Improve efforts towards learning in school and overall school performance
        • Build self-compassion and happiness
        • Improve self-confidence and social and emotional competence
        • Increase positive behaviors and strengthen relationships with parents and peers
        • Gain respite from daily life stresses and have the opportunity to develop resiliency strategies to enhance their growth and development
        • Develop leadership capabilities
        • Model Shared Leadership®
        • Improve health and social, emotional, and behavioral well-being
        • Achieve permanency
    • Parent Partner Services are provided by Parents Anonymous® Staff and Parent Leaders with lived experiences and include:
      • Advocacy
      • Kinship Navigator Services
      • In-home parenting
      • Supportive services including linkages to community resources
    • The National Parent Helpline® is available for parents to call and receive emotional support and appropriate referrals.

Program Delivery

Child/Adolescent Services

Parents Anonymous® directly provides services to children/adolescents and addresses the following:

  • Lack of self-compassion, low self-esteem, serious emotional problems, disruptive social behavior, diminished family and peer relationships, lack of impulse control, mental health concerns, substance abuse disorders, and delinquency and school problems

Parent/Caregiver Services

Parents Anonymous® directly provides services to parents/caregivers and addresses the following:

  • Lack of knowledge in child development and age-appropriate expectations, lack of communication skills, poor discipline techniques, lack of knowledge on parental roles and effective parenting strategies, anger management issues, mental health concerns, substance use disorders, safety issues, lack of self-care, social isolation, impulse control, and low self-esteem, domestic violence, impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences, and lack emotional and health well-being

Recommended Intensity:

Weekly 2-hour group session; more than 2 hours per week for Supportive Services, In-Home Parenting, Parent Partner and Navigator, and Helpline Services

Recommended Duration:

For at least 4 months, groups are open-ended and ongoing; parents/caregivers attend whenever they want for as long as they want. For child-welfare-involved families, for at least 12-18 months (or more) with the program's services such as: Supportive services, groups, in-home parenting, parent partner and kinship navigator, and helpline services. For parents with children and youth with severe emotional challenges, 12-18 months with the program's services such as: Groups, ongoing supportive services, and helpline services.

Delivery Settings

This program is typically conducted in a(n):

  • Outpatient Clinic
  • Community-based Agency / Organization / Provider
  • Group or Residential Care
  • Justice Setting (Juvenile Detention, Jail, Prison, Courtroom, etc.)
  • Other
  • Public Child Welfare Agency (Dept. of Social Services, etc.)
  • School Setting (Including: Day Care, Day Treatment Programs, etc.)
  • Shelter (Domestic Violence, Homeless, etc.)

Homework

This program does not include a homework component.

Languages

Parents Anonymous® has materials available in a language other than English:

Spanish

For information on which materials are available in this language, please check on the program's website or contact the program representative (contact information is listed at the bottom of this page).

Resources Needed to Run Program

The typical resources for implementing the program are:

  • Certified Program Staff and Parent Leaders, Trained Adult and Children & Youth Group Facilitators, and Parent Group Leaders
  • Parents Anonymous® manuals and outreach and program materials for parents and children promoting Asking for Help is a Sign of Strength®, National Parent Helpline®, National Parent Leadership Month®, and Parent Leadership Network
  • Online National Database
  • Program Fidelity and Assessment Readiness Tools
  • Validated National Outcome Survey administered over time
  • Link to Parents Anonymous® Inc. websites, Facebook, and Twitter accounts
  • A safe and welcoming location accessible to families in the community to be served
  • A private meeting room to accommodate 8-15 parents/caregivers
  • Separate meeting rooms for different age groups of children and youth with educational toys and materials utilized in structured activities
  • Flyers and cards to promote the National Parent Helpline®
  • Promotion of Stand with Families Campaign
  • Activities to celebrate National Parent Leadership Month®

Manuals and Training

Prerequisite/Minimum Provider Qualifications

Parents Anonymous® Adult and Children & Youth Group Facilitators should have a Bachelor's and/or Master's degree in social work, psychology, early childhood education, or other behavioral science or credentials as a teacher, clergy, or nurse, as well as experience and expertise in providing primary prevention and family strengthening programs to diverse populations in urban, suburban and rural communities and settings.

All Program Staff and Parent Leaders are expected to develop research-based competencies that ensure the successful implementation the Parents Anonymous® Therapeutic Processes of Mutual Support, Parent Leadership, Shared Leadership®, and Personal Growth and Change through Trauma Informed-Practices curricula.

Manual Information

There is a manual that describes how to deliver this program.

Training Information

There is training available for this program.

Training Contact:
Training Type/Location:

Organizations who wish to obtain training for staff and parent leaders to implement Parents Anonymous® program need to contact Parents Anonymous® Inc.

Number of days/hours:

Parents Anonymous® Facilitator Initial Training is 8 hours, shadowing and subsequent Trainings occur to ensure all competencies are met at the developed or well-developed levels. Staff Training is 32 hours of total training, implementation of an action plan, guided practice, and development of specific research-based competencies.

Additional Resources:

There currently are additional qualified resources for training:

  • Competency-Based Training Modules linked to the National Standards of Practice for each specific role within in Parents Anonymous® programs
  • Program Materials on specific therapeutic interventions are available

Implementation Information

Pre-Implementation Materials

There are pre-implementation materials to measure organizational or provider readiness for Parents Anonymous® as listed below:

A tool is used to assist the organization in determining their readiness, but it is not publicly available. Contact the program representative (see bottom of page) to arrange an initial telephone call to discuss the implementing organization's readiness, organizational capacity, and resources to support the Parents Anonymous® program.

Formal Support for Implementation

There is formal support available for implementation of Parents Anonymous® as listed below:

Parents Anonymous® Inc. is responsible for all training, guided practice, consultation, and technical assistance to implement Parents Anonymous® Programs worldwide.

After reviewing the information at www.parentsanonymous.org, all organizations should contact the program representative (contact information at bottom of page).

Organizations must complete an online application demonstrating their commitment and capacity to meet National Benchmarks and Program Standards.

Parents Anonymous® Inc. staff provides coaching and support throughout all stages of program implementation, management and evaluation; On Line National Database; Outcome Surveys and Program and Outreach Materials are available for an Annual Fee.

Fidelity Measures

There are fidelity measures for Parents Anonymous® as listed below:

Parents Anonymous® Inc. requires site visiting and administration of validated fidelity tools at least once a year; for new programs, quarterly is preferred. There are specific Site Visiting Tools for the Adult Group and the Children and Youth Groups. Parents Anonymous® Inc. ensures fidelity through the administration, analysis and reports of all essential components of the Parents Anonymous® program utilizing the Group Fidelity Tools for Site Visitor, Parent Participants, and Adult and Children & Youth Group Facilitators. Furthermore, a validated National Outcome Survey is administered to all participants their first time at Parents Anonymous® and every 3 months thereafter. For more information, contact the program representative (contact information at bottom of page).

Implementation Guides or Manuals

There are implementation guides or manuals for Parents Anonymous® as listed below:

An operations manual, tool kits, and program implementation materials are available for accredited organizations. Contact the program representative (contact information at bottom of page).

Research on How to Implement the Program

Research has not been conducted on how to implement Parents Anonymous®.

Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research

Child Welfare Outcome: Child/Family Well-Being

Lieber, L. & Baker J. M. (1977). Parents Anonymous: Self-help treatment for child abusing parents: A review and an evaluation. Child Abuse & Neglect, 1(1), 133-148. https://doi.org/10.1016/0145-2134(77)90057-6

Type of Study: One-group pretest-posttest
Number of Participants: 613

Population:

  • Age — Parents: Mean=29.3 years; Children: Mean=5.9 years
  • Race/Ethnicity — Parents: 69% Anglo, 20% Other or no answer, 4% Black, 3% American Indian, 2% Mexican-American, and 1% Asian-American; Children: Not specified
  • Gender — Parents: 83% Female, 17% Male; Children: Not specified
  • Status — Participants were recruited from questionnaires mailed to all (356) identified Parents Anonymous® Chapters. 

Location/Institution: Tucson, Arizona

Summary: (To include basic study design, measures, results, and notable limitations)
The purpose of the study was to determine the impact of Parents Anonymous® on the lives of its members. Participants were divided into categories determined by the amount of time they had been in the Parents Anonymous® program. Measures utilized include Parents Anonymous – Your Personal Profile developed by the researcher. Results indicate that a decrease in reported frequency of physical abuse appeared to almost immediately take effect upon entering the Parents Anonymous® program. This decrease in physical abuse did not significantly change with time in the program. In contrast, though a decrease in verbal abuse was also shown, this decrease continued over time in the program. Additionally, increases in positive statements about self and increases in reported frequency of social contacts were both shown to be significantly correlated to increases in length of time in the Parents Anonymous® program. The evaluation results also showed that the Parents Anonymous® program has demonstrated a statistically significant impact on the participants’ knowledge in areas of child behavior and development, showing that their behavioral expectations for children became more developmentally and age appropriate as time in the program increased. Limitations include the lack of a control group, reliance on self-report, lack of standardized measures, and the lack of follow-up data.

Length of controlled postintervention follow-up: None.

Roth, H. J. (1985). Relationship between attendance at a Parents Anonymous adult program and children's behavior at the Parents Anonymous child care program. Children and Youth Services Review, 7(1), 39-43. https://doi.org/10.1016/0190-7409(85)90038-6

Type of Study: One-group pretest-posttest
Number of Participants: 22 children

Population:

  • Age — 1-14 years
  • Race/Ethnicity — Not specified
  • Gender — Not specified
  • Status — Participants were parents and their children involved in the Parents Anonymous® Program.

Location/Institution: Durham, North Carolina

Summary: (To include basic study design, measures, results, and notable limitations)
The purpose of the study was to determine the statistical relationship between the proportion of parent group meetings attended by parents involved in a Parents Anonymous® Adult Program [now called (Parents Anonymous®)] and the number of positive behavioral ratings received by children who attended the Parents Anonymous® Child Care Program. Measures utilized include a list of rated statements developed by the researcher and parent attendance records. Results indicate that the correlation between group attendance and children’s positive behavioral ratings during the Child Care Program was statistically significant. Children whose parents had attended more than 50% of the parent group meetings had a mean behavior rating of 7.98. The children whose parents attended 50% or less of the parent group meetings had an adjusted mean behavior rating of 4.61. Limitations include the small sample size, the lack of standardized measures, the lack of a control group, and lack of follow-up data.

Length of controlled postintervention follow-up: None.

Hunka, C. D., O’Toole, A. W., & O’Toole, R. (1985). Self-help therapy in Parents Anonymous. Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services, 23(7), 24-32. https://doi.org/10.3928/0279-3695-19850701-09

Type of Study: One-group pretest-posttest
Number of Participants: 18

Population:

  • Age — Mean=29-30 years
  • Race/Ethnicity — Not specified
  • Gender — 83% Female and 17% Male
  • Status — Participants were members of two Parents Anonymous® groups. 

Location/Institution: An urban area in Ohio

Summary: (To include basic study design, measures, results, and notable limitations)
The purpose of the study was to assess the effectiveness of Parents Anonymous® on parents’ abuse-related attitudes and behaviors towards their children. Results indicate that from pretreatment, the change in 10 abuse-related attitudes and behavior dimensions following participation in Parents Anonymous® was statistically significant. Parents’ average pretreatment rankings were towards the abusive end of the scale; after involvement in Parents Anonymous®, parents’ average rankings on these dimensions were closer to the opposite end of the scale. Among other improvements, parents who attended Parents Anonymous® 18 months or more tended to have higher change scores than those who had attended less than 18 months. Limitations include the use of only two Parents Anonymous® groups, a small sample size, the use of a retrospective self-report measure, lack of standardized measures, the lack of a control group, and the lack of follow-up data.

Length of controlled postintervention follow-up: None.

Polinsky, M. L., Pion-Berlin, L., Williams, S., Long, T., & Wolf, A. M. (2010). Preventing child abuse and neglect: A national evaluation of Parents Anonymous® groups. Child Welfare, 89(6), 43-62. https://www.jstor.org/stable/48623282

Type of Study: One-group pretest posttest
Number of Participants: 206

Population:

  • Age — Not specified
  • Race/Ethnicity — 48% African American, 42% White, and 10% Other
  • Gender — 91% Female
  • Status — Participants were parents new to Parents Anonymous® groups.

Location/Institution: 54 Parents Anonymous® groups in 19 states

Summary: (To include basic study design, measures, results, and notable limitations)
The purpose of the study was to assess whether participation in Parents Anonymous® mutual support groups [now called (Parents Anonymous®)] was associated with child maltreatment prevention. Results indicate that all parents showed improvements in child maltreatment outcomes, risk factors, and protective factors. Parents starting out with particularly serious needs showed statistically significant improvement on every scale.  Limitations include the lack of a control group, low recruitment rates, lack of follow up, and a lack of information on the measures that were used.

Length of controlled postintervention follow-up: None.

Polinsky, M. L., Pion-Berlin, L., Long, T., & Wolf, A. M. (2011). Parents Anonymous outcome evaluation: Promising findings for child maltreatment reduction. Journal of Juvenile Justice, 1(1), 33-47. https://calio.dspacedirect.org/handle/11212/3394

Type of Study: One-group pretest-posttest
Number of Participants: 206

Population:

  • Age — 19-63 years (Mean=35 years)
  • Race/Ethnicity — 48% African American and 42% White
  • Gender — 91% Female
  • Status — Participants were members of Parents Anonymous®.

Location/Institution: 54 Parents Anonymous® groups in 19 states

Summary: (To include basic study design, measures, results, and notable limitations)
This study used the sample from Polinsky et al. (2010). The purpose of the study was to describe the findings of a national evaluation of Parents Anonymous® by assessing whether participation in Parents Anonymous® is associated with changes in child maltreatment outcomes and in risk and protective factors. Measures utilized include the Child Abuse Potential Inventory, Parent-Child Conflict Tactics Scale, Life Stress Scale, Parenting Stress Index Short Form, Conflict Tactics Scale, Short Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test, Quality of Life Scale, Norbeck Social Support Questionnaire, Parenting Sense of Competence, and the McMaster Family Assessment Device. Results indicate that after attending Parents Anonymous® mutual support group meetings, parents indicated statistically significant reductions in risk factors for child abuse and neglect. Limitations include possible selection bias, the lack of a control group, and threats to internal validity.

Length of controlled postintervention follow-up: None.

Burnson, C., Covington, S., Arvizo, B., Qiao, J., & Harris, E. (2021). The impact of Parents Anonymous on child safety and permanency. Children and Youth Services Review, 124, Article 105973. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2021.105973

Type of Study: Pretest-posttest study with a nonequivalent control group (Quasi-experimental)
Number of Participants: 4,267

Population:

  • Age — Children: 0-18 years; Parents: Not specified
  • Race/Ethnicity — Children: Not specified; Parents: Comparison: 74% Hispanic/Latinx, 14% Black/African American, 12% White, and 1% Asian; Treatment: 74% Hispanic/Latinx, 14% Black/African American, 12% White, and 1% Asian
  • Gender — Not specified
  • Status — Participants were parents who had been involved in the child welfare system.

Location/Institution: Two large California counties

Summary: (To include basic study design, measures, results, and notable limitations)
The purpose of the study was to examine the effectiveness of Parents Anonymous in improving outcomes in child safety and permanency. Participants were a sample of parents who received Parents Anonymous services compared to a sample who did not. Measures utilized include data from the child welfare administrative data system. Results indicate that two outcomes were statistically significant. A referral for child abuse or neglect and a substantiated child abuse or neglect finding were both significantly less likely in the Parents Anonymous group than the comparison group at 12 months post-treatment. No other statistically significant results were identified in the analysis. Limitations include lack of randomization, differences in outcomes observed could have been associate with factors that were not accounted for at baseline matching, and inability to definitively identify parents that had “completed” the Parents Anonymous program.

Length of controlled postintervention follow-up: 6 months and 1 year.

Additional References

Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. (2014). New directions in child abuse and neglect research (pp. 201-209). Retrieved from The National Academies Press website: https://www.nap.edu/catalog/18331/new-directions-in-child-abuse-and-neglect-research

National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD). (March 2008). Special report - Parents Anonymous® outcome evaluation: Promising findings for child maltreatment reduction. Retrieved from http://www.nccdglobal.org/sites/default/files/publication_pdf/special-report-parents-anonymous.pdf.

Pion-Berlin, L., & Long, T. (2017). Shared Leadership®: An innovative approach to child abuse and neglect prevention. In R. Alexander & S. Alexander (Eds.), Research in child maltreatment prevention (Vol. 2, pp. 202-216). Florissant, Missouri: STM Learning Inc.

Contact Information

Dr. Lisa Pion-Berlin
Title: President and Chief Executive Officer
Agency/Affiliation: Parents Anonymous, Inc.
Website: www.parentsanonymous.org
Email:
Phone: (909) 575-4211
Fax: (909) 621-0614

Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: December 2018

Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: August 2019

Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: August 2010