Judge Meinster Speaks to the Effectiveness of Circle of Parents

We recently had the chance to speak with Judge Ann Meinster of Jefferson County, a major proponent of and advocate for the Circle of Parents program. Judge Meinster presides over the Family Integrated Treatment (FIT) court, a voluntary track that families can opt into when involved in the child welfare system. Having witnessed time and time again how peer support is critical to parents’ wellbeing, Judge Meinster often refers families to Circle of Parents. 

Circle of Parents provides a friendly, supportive community led by parents and other caregivers. Participants are invited to share support, tips or advice in a safe space with those in their communities. The Circle of Parents model is evidence-informed and has been shown to improve resiliency in children by increasing the protective factors in their environment. 

There are several types of Circle of Parents groups, including those specifically for fathers, parents of children with special healthcare needs, and Spanish-speaking parents. Judge Meinster explained to us that through her work she sees the benefits of the Parents in Recovery group most often. 

The goal of her court, Judge Meinster told us, is to provide wrap-around support to families in order to reunify children with their parents or ensure children can remain in the home. Judge Meinster– and increasingly more professionals in her field– know that peer support is critical to achieving this goal. Specifically, parents need ongoing community support focused around substance use. What’s special about the Parents in Recovery groups is that not only are parents able to bond over their experiences in recovery, but they can also connect over the shared struggles of being a parent, and often of being involved in the child welfare system. That is a perspective that no one else has– and it is critical to long-term sobriety. 

“It’s not just people in recovery…it’s also parents who are involved in the child welfare system…that’s an additional bond that parents form…you can’t overstate the effectiveness of that.”

– Judge Meinster

Judge Meinster will sometimes pop into a Circle of Parents meeting to both reconnect with parents she’s had in her courtroom and see some new faces. She told us that the scene is truly inspirational: parents connecting, sharing, and supporting each other. Even the parents who have been attending group meetings for over five years are not only just supporting others but are also still talking about the struggles they currently face– the model of good recovery.  

“They trust each other and they trust Toni [the facilitator]…It really is the most successful program I’ve seen that a court has been able to refer to.”

– Judge Meinster

Caregivers come in all shapes and sizes, which is why Illuminate Colorado supports over 40 Circle of Parents groups in 12 counties across the state. To learn more about Circle of Parents, or find the group that’s best for you, visit CircleOfParentsCO.org.  

Find Your Circle Today!

Check out our interactive map to get connected with a group!

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