It may surprise some that some 30 percent of males aged 14-18 confined to juvenile detention centers are fathers. Most have limited parenting skills, and function at a fourth grade reading level, according to the report “The Baby Elmo Program: Improving Teen Father–Child Interactions within Juvenile
Justice Facilities, written by Rachel Barr and Natalie Brito of Georgetown University. Click here to go to website.
Parenting classes in correctional facilities are fairly common. Teaching a mother or father how to be a better parent is part of reentry strategies most prisons employ. But these programs are geared to adults who may have had some experience caring for a child and need a bit more guidance. The Baby Elmo Program that is found in juvenile detention centers in California and Ohio is aimed at young fathers with little or no parenting skills, and the goal of the program is not only to teach these skills but to also forge a bond between the young dads and their children that will continue to grow outside of a correctional setting.
The Baby Elmo Program, named after a lovable Muppet, is unique. Because of the low reading levels of the juvenile fathers, written materials are kept at a minimum. The program was designed to run with little staffing and money, both of which have not undermined the success of the program.