Ruben Garcia moved to Antioch from Southern California in search of a better life for his two teenage grandchildren.

He has been raising them alone since they were babies, but adolescence has been the toughest stage for the 49-year-old grandfather.

It is especially difficult for Garcia to relate to his 14-year-old granddaughter, who struggles without a motherly figure in her life.

By taking classes through the Counseling Options and Parent Education Family Support Center in downtown Antioch, he has learned ways to give her the space and independence she needs and reward good behavior from her and her 15-year-old brother.

"There are a lot of parenting programs for mothers and grandmothers but not for fathers and grandfathers. There are resources out there, but not for men," Garcia said. "The coaches are there to help with her, especially, and help me understand that it is not me and not personal. I now realize that all of these situations are temporary, and I know how to handle different situations."

COPE is a new nonprofit organization. Many of the therapists and social workers who work for the COPE Family Support Center have been trained in "Triple P" -- the Positive Parenting Program -- that helped Garcia's family. Many of them also previously worked for the now-defunct Family Stress Center in Antioch.

Through the program Garcia learned how to cope with his teenage granddaughter when she needed space. One method he learned is to have her put a sticker on the calendar on days when she needs privacy and quiet time away from him and her brother. This allows her to have that space but she doesn't have to talk about it with her grandfather. Little techniques like this have helped Garcia to improve communication in his home with the two kids, he said.

"Our mission is to help parents and have healthy families and get them the resources they need," said COPE Director Cathy Botello. "We have been working for social services and other nonprofits for at-risk families. We are at this point because this is what we are good at, and this is what we love."

First 5 Contra Costa and Contra Costa County Mental Health Services funded the Triple P training for 20 people involved with COPE.

The program, based in Australia, gained the attention of First 5 because it has 25 years of positive results with child mistreatment and foster care placement, according to First 5 Contra Costa officials.

"The appealing thing is that there is a lot of evidence and research on this program's effectiveness," said First 5 Contra Costa Executive Director Sean Casey. "It is a broad-based program from broad public information about parenting to specific interventions with certain types of families."

Triple P improves the competence and confidence of parents while addressing their children's social and emotional issues, according to Mary Roy, Contra Costa Mental Health Services' prevention and early intervention coordinator.

"It has been replicated and proven across various populations," she said. "It also can deal with more complex family needs."

Botello echoed that, saying the Triple P workshops and classes can help many kinds of families through various methods of parent coaching.

The Stepping Stones program, for example, helps those whose children have speech or language delays or problematic behavior.

"This is especially important for the parents of children with disabilities because there is not much support out there for them," Botello said.

The basic Triple P program is an eight- to 10-week course for parents who want to improve their general parenting skills. There is also a program called Pathways for parents who might need help managing anger.

"We are interested in helping parents with children in gangs who are out of control," Botello said. "Also, parents who are immigrants don't know how to access resources. They don't know how to assimilate well, and their children sometimes have problems."

Triple P classes will be held at Contra Costa First 5 Centers, some Head Start sites, Crossroads High School, Monument Elementary School and all of the campuses of the Contra Costa Community College District.

Botello said that the prevention and intervention program is tailored to the family's needs at that time. Parents initially complete surveys to gauge their confidence in parenting and stress levels.

"It is not your typical parenting program. It is the delivery that is different," Botello said. "Triple P is very flexible and easy to bring into any environment."

HELP FOR PARENTS
WHAT: COPE, a nonprofit offering support services for parents
WHERE: Family support center is at 301 W. 10th St., Antioch; A Concord center will open in August.
DETAILS: www.copefamilysupport.com or 925-639-3143