MyPC Q&A: Cheryl Harimoto & Jenny Kim; Parent Project Facilitators

The Parent Project is a 10 week, two part course. Part One: Laying the Foundation of Change (Weeks 1-6) and Part Two: Changing Behavior & Rebuilding Family Relationships (Weeks 7-10).
Participants in the Parent Project follow an activity based 216-page workbook, “A Parent’s Guide to Changing Destructive Adolescent Behavior”

Harimoto and Kim are two individuals that have impressed me with their dedication as facilitators for the Parent Project that serves Pearl City. Each week, I am blessed with meeting and being able to tell the stories of people who through their efforts and contributions to our community represent a positive connection that truly benefits Pearl City. Harimoto and Kim contribute in a big way. It’s not easy doing the work that they do. I guess that’s why it takes a very special person to choose the Social Work field. Taking care of people is top priority. That’s exactly how you define them.

After my meeting with Harimoto and Kim to put together the information to write this MyPC Q&A, I was awakened to a world of troubled teenagers that need help. My respect goes out to the parents, who love their children deeply, but in most cases don’t know where to turn. They have endured the destructive behavior path that has torn apart at the family nucleus. They too need help.

The success that the Parent Project is designed to deliver gives direction to parents through the training process by allowing them to take direct steps towards the intervention process. My goal is that the following MyPC Q&A reaches those in need or is passed on to someone you may know that
needs the assistance that Cheryl Harimoto and Jenny Kim can provide through the Parent Project in Pearl City.

Q: How would you define the Parent Project?

A: (Harimoto) “The Parent Project is a parenting program focusing on parents who have strong willed and out of control teenagers that are engaging in a lot of self destructive behaviors.”

Q: Can you give examples of self destructive behavior?

A: (Harimoto) “ Self destructive behaviors that encompasses anything like not going to school, not doing well academically, maybe in to drugs and alcohol or gangs. It may also include runaways or suicidal behavior.”

Q: Your roles in the Parent Project?

A: (Harimoto) “We’re facilitators of the program so we run the program and we do the class.”

Q: What type of training is required to become a facilitator for the program?

A: (Kim) “It’s a five day, 40 hours of intensive training. What they do is go through almost the entire Parent Project workbook.”

Q: Do your responsibilities as facilitators go beyond Pearl City?

A. (Harimoto) “We’re based in Pearl City but there are others facilitators around the island that do it as well.”

Q: Is there one person who oversees the Parent Project on the island?

A: (Kim) “June Kawamura is the coordinator of the Parent Project program and she keeps us abreast of all the other parenting programs and sites. That way parents in this area we can refer to other sites.”

Q: Parents interested in the program can basically join any program site on the island?

A: (Harimoto) “We don’t only take parents who live in Pearl City. If there are other parents from other sites that want to come to ours because it fits better with the day and time we will accept anybody.”

Q: So you are both working with the Parent Project from Palisades Elementary?

A: (Kim) “We are both housed at the school and we are both school social workers and we do this primarily as additional support to the schools as part of parent education services.”

Q: Is there a charge for the program?

A: (Kim) “The classes are free. The only thing they pay for is the workbook and that’s only $24.00.”

Q: How do the parents find out about the Parent Program?

A: (Harimoto) “We advertise buy putting our information in the parent newsletters for the intermediate,
high school and elementary schools within Pearl City. We try our best to publicize it elsewhere. We’ve gone to the Pearl City Police Station to give a presentation to the police officers so that when they respond to a call, if it is dealing with a mother and a child than at least they can say we have this resource that you may want to check out. We’ve gotten a few from that way where the parent has called us to say they want to come to the class.”

A: (Kim) “We’ve even gone to other agencies like the Department of Human Services because there’s
a lot of social workers that under court order conditions the parents are required to take a parenting class.
We’ve met with the administrator through the Department of Human Services as well as family court too.”

Q: Do the court appointed cases make facilitating the program more of a challenge?

A: (Kim) “We work with all kind of situations and this program is no quick fix. This program is really good because it is curriculum based, and it’s not therapy, its curriculum based. They are given the tools but it is not going to be an overnight kind of thing but the consistency is the key.”

Q: What is the curriculum?

A: (Harimoto) “It is based on behavior modification which we teach the parents. The first thing that you are going to learn is that you need to tell your child that you love them everyday. A lot of times when kids are into these kind of destructive behaviors, it’s so easy to just harp on them and all the negative comes out but you need to make the distinction that it’s the behavior that you don’t agree with or you don’t like. As a person even though they are engaging in these behaviors the bottom line is that you are the parent and you still love your child.”

Q: Are parents taught how to deal with handing down consequences for the child’s behavior?

A: (Harimoto) “Our consequences, its different for a strong willed child. It’s what we call short term consequences where if you are going to have to ground your child and take away everything, its going to be short term like anywhere from one evening to all the way up to seven days but not to exceed seven days.

When it’s longer than that it loses its effect. It’s like the kid will say, “what’s the sense of trying because I cannot see the end of the tunnel where I get my privileges back?” That’s one big difference I believe in what we are teaching.”

A: (Kim) “We encourage them, just be consistent, I know it’s hard because these kids can be frustrating because they always have an argument or something to say. Just don’t let your guard down and encourage because it’s going to get worst before it gets better.”

Q: What about the feeling of accomplishment when you see the Parent Project work for a parent and child?

A: (Kim) “It’s like chicken skin. It’s unbelievable. Some parents have commented;

“That not only did it improve my relationship with my child, my child’s grades improved from failing to like making C. I don’t remember when the last time my child had a C average.”

“Oh, I’m getting along with my child, we’re talking and actually spending time, we’re spending the weekend together.”

Some have actually said that it has improved their marital relationship. They may have been on the brink of separating, but now they are going to martial counseling. They are now communicating among each other. The best part is the peace and harmony in the home situation.”

Q: Do you have parents that come back to retake the program?

A: (Kim) “We have a number of parents who want to take the program again. We tell them if you want to take the course all over again you can do so. We had some parents take it three times. We had one that took it four times.”

A: (Harimoto) “I think why they come back for a second and third time is because in our program we also incorporate a support group for the parents which we start in the seventh week. Also, because the parents bound with each other, they feel comfortable in sharing their own personal stories. In the first class they realize that they are not the only parent that has these kinds of problems. They really bond with each other.”

Q: Would you say the curriculum is designed to build confidence in the parents from the very beginning of the program?

A: (Kim) “The way the curriculum format works is that it makes them comfortable from the first week.
The reason for that is that we get them into group pods of four and five parents. We go through each of the concepts and then they get into the group and do the activity and it’s less threatening because it’s a case that they don’t know who it is. It’s related to the concepts and then they brainstorm.”

Q: Do you have speakers come to the program to address the parents?

A: (Harimoto) “We do bring speakers in from HPD and the topics that they speak on is the drugs in Hawaii and the gangs. I bring someone in from the Attorney General’s office that does a presentation on internet safety and talking about cyber bullying and all of that. It’s a lot of information that parents need to be aware
of and what to look for to keep their children safe.”

Q: How is the Parent Project financed?

A: (Harimoto) “The Legislature did appropriate money and it goes to the DOE and the DOE sets aside that money specifically for programs that will be working with parents.”

Q: Do you see any improvement that can be made to the program?

A: (Harimoto) “We still have problems with getting parents to register and come to it. We know that there are tons of parents out there that need to come. It’s voluntary. We don’t have anything that says it’s mandated.”

A: (Kim) “But even when they are court ordered, at first they wonder why they are there? But you know, when they finish the first class they say I’m glad I came.”

For more information and registration contact Pearl City Complex School Social Workers, Jenny Kim at 454-8815 or Cheryl Harimoto at 453-6550 extension 255.

Classes start on Thursday, September 3, from 6:00pm – 9:00pm at Highlands Intermediate School Library, 1460 Hoolaulea Street, Pearl City. Classes are free. There is a $24.00 fee to purchase the course workbook.