UNODC launches pilot project in Brazil to prevent drug use by strengthening family relationships
From left to right: Coura, Seidel, Maximiano, Guimarães and Santos
Brasília, 27 August 2013 - The Federal District is the first federal unit in Brazil to receive a pilot project by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) that works on family relationships to prevent drug use among children. The launch was held yesterday at the Federal Police Academy in Brasília and was attended by about a hundred psychologists, educators and public managers from the four social assistance centers that will receive the project.
The launch was also attended by Nara Santos, coordinator of the health and development unit at the UNODC Liaison and Partnership Office in Brazil; Vitore Maximiano, National Secretary for Drug Policy; Daniel Seidel, Social Development and Income Transfer Secretary for the Federal District; Mario Gil Guimarães, Undersecretary for Drug Policies; and Marco Antonio Coura, Director of the National Police Academy.
"This activity for strengthening families and the relationship between parents and children, even those very young, from ages zero to five years old, is absolutely innovative. It is something we want to take to several other locations in the country after this pilot project", said Maximiano. Resulting from a partnership between UNODC, the National Secretariat for Drug Policy, the State Secretariat of Justice (Sejus) and the State Secretariat of Social Development and Income Transfer (Sedest) of the Federal District, the pilot project will be implemented in the social assistance centers that serve the communities of Estrutural, Planaltina, Samambaia and Sol Nascente.
The project's launch on Monday in Brasília
Up to 130 families will participate in weekly meetings during the next two months. Divided in groups of up to ten families, the participants will eat a meal together and do activities that involve drawing, singing and playing games. By stimulating the interaction between parents and children and also between families from the same communities, the project aims to reinforce family relationships to boost children's development and prevent risky behavior later in their lives, such as drug abuse and violence. The group sessions will also approach the issue of drug abuse and will be led by a team of social assistants, teachers and members of the community.
The project's methodology has already been implemented by UNODC as part of the global Family Skills programme, which has reached over 5,000 families in almost 20 countries. Evaluations indicate that about 80% of the participants attend all meetings and maintain contact with other families after the project is over. Results such as increased sociability, improved academic performance and greater parent involvement in schools, as well as a decrease in conflicts, aggressive behavior and anxiety, were also observed. The Brazilian version of the project innovates by holding the family meetings in social assistance centers instead of schools, where activities were usually conducted in other countries.
Throughout the week, Brazilian professionals will receive training from a team led by UNODC consultant Dr. Lynn McDonald, a professor at Middlesex University who created the project's methodology. Since Monday afternoon, those responsible for implementing the project in each social assistance center have been gathered to simulate family meetings. Tomorrow, everyone involved in the training will go to the Planaltina social assistance center, the largest of the four that will receive the project, in order to attend the first family meeting. On the following day, the team of the Planaltina center will be divided into three groups, which will attend the family meetings in the other three social assistance centers. On Friday there will be a closing ceremony, in which the participants will receive their certificates.