April 26, 2005
Parents are usually shocked when Shelly Mowery tells them that it’s not a matter of if, but when, their kids will be exposed to drugs.
"They think some of the warning signs of drug use are typical teenage-hood," says Mowery, program director for the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, Arizona Chapter.
Parents think, "I’m a soccer mom. I take my kids to school. I love my children, I spend time with them. How could this happen to my child?" she says.
To better educate parents on what’s going on in teens’ lives and how to realistically talk to them about drugs, the Partnership for a Drug-Free America has launched the Arizona Parent Partners Program.
"It allows parents to learn from other parents’ experiences," says Mowery.
A group of moms and dads from Phoenix and the East Valley have been trained on what drugs are out there today and how kids use them. They also learned about the teen culture and how to effectively ask what’s going on in a kid’s life.
The parents will take their new skills, along with personal stories of struggles with drugs or alcohol in their own families, and simply talk to other parents.
They will be out in the community, holding meetings and attending parent group functions. Neighbors are welcome to invite these parents to speak at events where other parents will be.
The members of the Arizona Parent Partners Program will also be available to answer parents’ questions online.
"Kids get busted in school for having marijuana and (parents) are embarrassed and sometimes clueless," says Mowery. The online community allows parents to ask questions and talk about situations anonymously.
Doug Shields of Chandler is one of the fathers who signed up as a Parent Partner member. He has a 16-year-old daughter and talks openly with her about drugs and what to watch out for.
Shields says he signed up because he’s seen the tragic effect drugs have in families — he knows several people who have had to struggle with drug abuse and its consequences.
"If I can prevent one family from going through what many of my friends and family have gone through in regard to drug abuse," he says, "I think what we’re trying to accomplish will have been done."
Shields thinks one of the biggest problems society has is parental apathy. If parents get more involved, ask tougher questions and know what to look for, he says, fewer kids will get involved with drugs.
"I wanted to be able to look back and say I was able to do something positive," says Shields.
For more information on the Arizona Parent Partners Program, to sign up for a newsletter or to talk with other parents online, visit