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Providing Support for Families Through Seasons of Change

My hope is things taught in this class will help them move on to realize it’s not about themselves; it’s about their relationship with their children now as co-parents.

- Nathan A. Verkamp, Dubois County Circuit Court Judge

Changes are a normal part of life; however, sudden or unexpected changes, such as a divorce or separation of parents, can significantly affect children’s well-being. Dubois County Circuit Court Judge Nathan A. Verkamp sees the cases in his courtroom daily and has made it a mission to help support these families.

A little over a year ago, Verkamp partnered with his local Purdue Extension office to require Parents Forever in Dubois County for all divorce and paternity cases as a resource for families in transition. Parents Forever is an educational program for families experiencing divorce, separation or child custody changes. This program focuses on teaching parents to be responsive, responsible and respectful to each other for the well-being of their children.

Purdue Extension educators like Chelsea Brewer of Dubois County provide the four-hour program in person to community residents, court-ordered parents and other caregivers. “Our hope is for our attendees to learn that your co-parent can be your best ally. They understand your child and what life looks like for your child. If they’re able to work together as a team, that is the best thing in the end.” Parents Forever is also available as an online course.

“The reality is that even though these individuals no longer find themselves as husband and wife, they will always be mother and father. My hope is the things taught in this class will help them move on to realize it’s not about themselves; it’s about their relationship with their children now as co-parents,” Verkamp said. The data from class recipients supports Verkamp’s goal with 80 percent of program attendees reporting they are likely to adjust their parenting to better meet the needs of their children.

Dubois County is not alone in utilizing this Extension resource. Parents Forever is currently mandated by 13 counties in Indiana. From January 2022 through May 2023, the program reached 831 adults and over 1,120 children in Indiana. Verkamp is grateful to have an ally like Purdue in this program: “Purdue has been an amazing partner for this.”

Verkamp and Brewer agree that the end goal of the program is the children’s well-being. “The children are the most important part to me in my role because that is our future. We must continue to work together to help them go through these changes,” Verkamp said.

PROGRAM IMPACT

  • From January 2022 through May 2023, THE PROGRAM REACHED 831 ADULTS AND OVER 1,120 CHILDREN in Indiana.
  • THIRTEEN INDIANA COUNTIES currently mandate Parents Forever.
  • 80 PERCENT OF PROGRAM ATTENDEES reported they are likely to adjust their parentign to better meet the needs of their children.

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