A county human services agency is organizing a support group for parents who have abused their children or fear they might, reviving a program that died last year for lack of participation.

The CommunityServices Council of Carroll is working to establish a county chapterof Parents Anonymous, an international organization for the prevention and treatment of child abuse and neglect.

A Parents Anonymous group met in Carroll for a year, but disbanded last September because not enough parents showed up, said George Giese, director of the county Youth Services Bureau, who led the chapter's meetings.

Giese said the few parents who did attend meetings "at varying intervals" benefited from the discussions and support and were able to change their behavior toward their children. Many parents could learn from the sessions if they became involved, he said.

"I know there are a lot of parents who think hitting kids is part of parenting," he said. "Even if they believe that, they over-spank and over-hit their kids. They're abusive parents."

Often, the abusive parents follow behavior patterns established by their own parents. They react to their kids as they remember being treated as children, said Giese. Parents Anonymous attempts to break those patterns and foster positive relationships between parents and children, he said.

"Their problem is they don't understand age-appropriate behavior," Giese said. "When a 3-year-old did something appropriate (for his age), the parent would whack him because that's the way they were treated. They thought it was good parenting, but it's not."

Abusive parentsoften are misperceived, said Giese.

"One thing I learned is that these parents really loved their kids," he said. "For society to say they're bad people is not true."

Parents Anonymous, which has 35 chapters in Maryland and is headquartered in Baltimore, strives to help parents by increasing their self-esteem and knowledge of child behavior, making them feel less socially isolated and improving their ability to handle stressful situations.

Social workers, court officials or school administrators can refer parents to Parents Anonymous, which can be a complement or an alternative to court-ordered intensivecounseling. Giese said the program typically has "cyclical" participation and can be self-perpetuating.

The optimal group would include eight to 12 parents, said Mary Blomgren, assistant program coordinator for Parents Anonymous in Maryland. Groups need a comfortable setting to meet where child care is provided.

The Maryland office is developing a pilot program that would offer a "therapeutic" environment for both parents and children, Blomgren said.

Blomgren, who observes chapters statewide, said she notices that both parents and children become calmer the longer they attend the sessions.

"At first there's a lot of noise, people come late and they're resistant," she said. "In time, it settles down and a routine develops. We offer them stability."

Once established, Parents Anonymous meetings will takeplace at the Youth Services Bureau, JCK Center, 332-140 Village Road, Westminster. The Community Services Council will have an organizational meeting 10 a.m. Sept. 9 at the bureau.

For information, call the Parents Anonymous headquarters at 728-7021, or the hot line, 243-7337.

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