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Parent-Child Therapy Aims to Reduce Abuse


As cases of child abuse and neglect continue to rise, a new therapy is being introduced to stop the numbers from growing in Deschutes County.

Thanks to grant money from the Deschutes County Behavioral Health Department, Parent Child Interaction Therapy or PCIT services will start at MountainStar Relief Nursery in Bend. This will be the second program of its kind on the High Desert.

It’s a research-based therapy that’s targeted at children who have bad behaviors, and parents who don’t know how to respond to them.

“There’s a lot of abuse that happens when a parent gets overwhelmed, or neglect, where they just give up and are not parenting the child at all because it gets too overwhelming,” Cherie Skillings of MountainStar Relief Nursery said Wednesday.

According to the 2009 Oregon Status of Children Report, in Deschutes County, 235 children were victims of child abuse and neglect. About 48 percent of child abuse victims are 5 years old and younger in the state.

“If you think about the normal behaviors of a 2-year-old — tantruming, not following directions, doing kind of dangerous behaviors — a lot of the time, parents are overwhelmed,” said Skillings. “In our agency, we really work with parents that are at risk for abuse and neglect, and some of the kids have been abused or neglected.”

Construction of the new PCIT room and therapist training is under way.

Once the room is done, the parent and child will come every week for 20 weeks and get personalized coaching, with a therapist watching from behind one-way glass and the parent and child in the other room. The parent will be coached through an earpiece as the interaction happens.

It will be a free service and will expand the services in the county, as there are only a few in Central Oregon certified to provide this service.

“We are excited at the idea that we can reduce the number of abuse that could be happening and increase the parents’ satisfaction with their child — and that’s really the goal of this,” said Skillings.

“If we can help them start a positive relationship with their child, that changes that child’s whole life,” said Skillings.

Construction of the PCIT room is expected to be complete by July 2012 with the program launching in January.

Those interested in learning more can reach Mountain Star Relief Nursery at 541-322-6820.


Press Release From MountainStar Relief Nursery:

MountainStar Relief Nursery was honored to be selected by Deschutes County Behavioral Health?s LAUNCH program as a site for ?Parent Child Interaction Therapy.?

Grant funds will enable MountainStar to create a therapy space dedicated to PCIT along with training to certify a two-therapist team made up of Cherie Skillings, MS, LPC and Laurie Hunter, MS, NCC.

What is PCIT

Parent-Child Interaction Therapy is a specialized treatment program designed for parents or foster parents and their young child (ages 2-8). PCIT is made up of 15 to 20 weekly sessions in which the parent and child are in one room and the therapist is in an adjacent room with an observation window. The parent and child are given instructions to play with toys while the therapist talks to the parent through an earpiece. This ?live coaching? during interactions between parent and child gives the parent real-time feedback and suggestions for improving their parenting behaviors. In the first phase, the therapist helps the parent learn to increase praise of their child and ignore behaviors that are not harmful. Upon mastery of the positive behavioral skills the parent then moves into the disciplinary stage and is coached through giving clear direction to their child and following through with consequences if the child does not listen or comply with directions.

Parenting a child with difficult behaviors often leaves the parent feeling overwhelmed and at the end of their rope. PCIT is successful in changing children?s behaviors so that they can experience a more positive relationship with their child. It has also been adapted successfully for use with populations who have experienced child maltreatment or exposure to trauma. By providing concrete ways for parents to interact positively and maintain clear boundaries with their child parents are able to have a more positive experience. This increased enjoyment and attachment results in reducing a child?s risk of being abused and/or neglected.

Goals upon Mastery of PCIT Skills

?Improved following of directions, listening, and cooperation

?Increased ability to manage frustration and anger

?Increased use of appropriate social skills

?Improved attention skills

?Increased self-esteem

?Improved parent-child relationships

?Increased parenting skills

?Decreased parental stress

Support for Foster Parents

Children in foster care often exhibit high levels of behavior problems. Foster parents frequently need help in managing foster children?s difficult behaviors. PCIT helps support foster parents caring for children with behavioral problems by enhancing the relationship between foster parent and child along with teaching foster parents behavior management skills. In addition to reporting decreases in child behavior problems, Foster parents frequently report less parental stress following PCIT and high levels of satisfaction with the program.

If you would like to find out more about PCIT, please contact Cherie Skillings at MountainStar Family Relief Nursery at or 541-322-6820. MountainStar is a child abuse and neglect prevention program that offers a Therapeutic Classroom and Home Visiting program to families with children three and under. MountainStar is dedicated to helping keep Children Safe, Parents Successful and Families Together! Resource: Child Welfare Information Gateway Jan. 2007

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