Expanding Parents Anonymous Support Groups

Being a parent can be confusing and frustrating, especially when resources for help are hard to find. Knowing that strong, supportive services can strengthen families by promoting positive parenting skills and healthy parent-child relationships, The Duke Endowment awarded $1.6 million over four years to expand Parents Anonymous in six rural South Carolina counties. This initiative is closed.


Many parents struggle with the challenge of raising children. They might feel incompetent, isolated or overwhelmed. Many want to learn how to be a better parent, but they don’t know where to go to ask for help.

The challenge may be even greater for parents in stressed rural areas with few resources. “Poverty has been and continues to be one of the greatest predictors of maltreatment,” writes Kathleen Belanger, a professor of social work in Texas and a leading advocate of rural social services. “And while poverty and a host of other difficulties is greater in rural America, a number of studies have found resources lacking.”


At its December 2005 meeting, Trustees of The Duke Endowment approved a grant to Parents Anonymous of South Carolina to create support groups for parents in Lee, Bamberg, Allendale, Hampton, Jasper and Colleton counties. Each county is along the I-95 corridor, which is one of the most economically-challenged areas in the state.

The six were targeted because several factors put children at high risk for abuse and neglect:

  • According to U.S. census data, the percentage of each county’s population that lived in poverty ranged from 22.3 percent in Colleton County to 38.3 percent in Allendale County.
  • The average unemployment rate in each county over the past 10 years ranged from 4.7 percent in Jasper County to 8.2 percent in Allendale County. (At the time, the average unemployment rate in the United States was below 5 percent.)

Founded nationally in 1969, Parents Anonymous offers programs for adults and children through a network of 267 accredited organizations and local affiliates. Parents Anonymous mutual support groups meet weekly, are free of charge to participants and are based on shared leadership and mutual support.

A national evaluation of Parents Anonymous found improvement in child maltreatment outcomes among parents with a variety of demographics, backgrounds and needs.

In South Carolina, the four-year project had a goal of establishing at least 30 parent mutual support groups, or five per county.

The effort’s first year was devoted to hiring a coordinator for each county and providing training in the Parents Anonymous model. There also was training in financial management, evaluation and sustainability.

The second year focused on implementing multiple parent support groups in all six counties. The third year emphasized technical assistance as each county moved toward becoming an affiliate of Parents Anonymous South Carolina.

In November 2008, Endowment Trustees approved support to allow local sites to develop and implement sustainability plans.

Participating Sites in North Carolina

  • Allendale County
  • Bamberg County
  • Colleton County
  • Hampton County
  • Jasper County
  • Lee County


Area of Work

  • Prevention and early intervention for at-risk children

Program Area

  • Child & Family Well-Being

Grantmaking Status

This program ran from 2005 to 2009

Areas of Work

  • Prevention and early intervention for at-risk children

    To equip children and families with skills to ensure that children reach developmental milestones to lead successful lives.

  • Out-of-home care for youth

    To drive child welfare systems toward greater accountability for child well-being.

  • Quality and safety of health care

    Improving the quality and safety of health care delivery

  • Access to health care

    Improving health by increasing access to comprehensive care

  • Prevention

    Expanding programs to promote health and prevent disease

  • Academic excellence

    Enhancing academic excellence through program and campus development

  • Educational access and success

    Increasing educational access and supporting a learning environment that promotes achievement

  • Campus and community engagement

    Promoting a culture of service, collaboration and engagement among schools and communities

  • Rural church development

    Building the infrastructure and capacity of United Methodist churches to enhance ministry and mission

  • Clergy leadership

    Strengthening United Methodist churches by improving the quality and effectiveness of church leadership

  • Congregational outreach

    Engaging United Methodist congregations in programs that serve their communities