TV video series takes on tough family topics

Posted: Thursday, October 19, 2000

Jacqueline Tagaban had to ask a lot of parents of alcohol-damaged children before she found some willing to talk on videotape.

"So many people said no to us rather than said yes," Tagaban said. "It took a long time to find enough parents to film."

The adoptive and birth parents she tracked down discussed the impacts of fetal alcohol syndrome for the final program in a series of videotapes the Tlingit and Haida Head Start program has labored over for three years. The program talks about the complex issues surrounding alcohol-related birth defects.

"We didn't give anyone a script and the parents are very candid," said Tagaban, a Juneau-based early childhood development specialist who spearheading development of two series of videos for Head Start.

The latest video, "Preventing and Prevailing: The Challenge of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome," will premier Nov. 9 in Anchorage during FAS Summit 2000. A 1998 study found FAS prevalence among Alaska children at 0.5 to 0.8 cases per 1,000 live births, above the national rate of 0.1 to 0.7 per 1,000.

KTOO and other Alaska public TV stations are broadcasting videos from two series: "Family Feathers" and "Parent's Journal." The videos explore traditional Tlingit and Haida family and child relationships and practices. They were produced by the Central Council Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska Head Start program. All broadcasts are Sunday at 10:30 a.m. The schedule is:

Oct. 22: "Creative Development."

Oct. 29: "Pregnancy and Childbirth."

Nov. 5: "Baby's First Year."

Nov. 12: "Toddler Care."

Nov. 19: "Preschool and Early Childhood Development."

Nov. 26: "Social Development."

Dec. 3: "Literacy."

Dec. 10: "Guidance and Discipline."

Dec. 17: "Stressful Times."

Dec. 24: "Multi-Generational Grief."

Dec. 31: "Nutrition."

Tagaban's technical partner in the film series is RXL Pulitzer, a Spokane, Wash., video production company. "They've been flying up here some times twice a month for the past three years and learned a lot about Native culture," Tagaban said. All footage was shot in Southeast.

A $2.04 million grant from the federal Department of Education funded the programs, which are being aired on public TV.

One video series is "Family Feathers," which addresses such topics as cultural heritage, dealing with stressful times and multi-generational grief. "Family Feathers" comprises 13 films, each 20 to 30 minutes long aimed at parents of preschoolers and older children.

The second series, which includes the FAS program, is titled "Parent's Journal." The 10- to 12-minute programs cover topics such as newborn care, children with special needs, creativity and parenting by teens. It is aimed at expectant parents through parents of toddlers.

Loreen Taylor, a family advocate with Petersburg Head Start, has worked with the "Parent's Journal" films since their inception.

"The videos let families see things from a different perspective," Taylor said. "They help with creative things. For example, you can't use real finger paints with infants but you can use yogurt or other colorful foods; instead of playdough, you can use peanut butter playdough."

Taylor found the video on teen pregnancy, which she describes as "a real tear-jerker," has helped young pregnant clients "see how they can be successful in life."

The 34-video project will be complete by the end of November. The videos were designed to be used by Tlingit and Haida family service providers on home visits or in group settings to stimulate discussion, Tagaban said. She is also developing curriculum for each film.

"The goal has been to bring together the traditional ideas of Tlingit and Haida people with what research tells us is good for children today," Tagaban said.

It's been a very affirming process, essentially confirming that Southeast peoples have been doing it right all along, she said.

"The elders and experts (interviewed on the videos) haven't even met, but you see them saying the same thing (about child rearing)," she said. "It's been very empowering."

Tagaban is distributing the videos to Head Starts throughout Alaska, to the state for distribution to school districts and to the state library. The videos are also being aired on public TV through Dec. 31.

Consultants, parents or educators may purchase the videos for $16.95 each, the cost of copying. Call Jill Beardsley at 463-7384 to place orders.

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