Amid violent week, city dedicates Universal Parenting Places

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The city unveiled its two "Universal Parenting Places" Thursday, where parents across the community can ask questions and get help.

It came during a violent week in Memphis, where many people in the community were pointing the finger at poor parenting.

Two young girls were fatally shot, and a teen mob overtook a gas station parking lot and attacked a man.

City and county leaders attended dedications and tours of both UPP sites, Baptist Memorial Hospital for Women and Knowledge Quest.

"What about parents who need help in raising their children? This is the beginning of an excellent answer to that question," said Mayor A C Wharton.

Speakers revealed Memphis is the first city to pilot UPP.

Private funds guaranteed free services at the centers for a couple years.

The city hoped to open both centers by mid-March but were rescheduled to open at 9 a.m. Monday, April 20.

Organizers hoped the UPPs would be preventative.

They said pediatricians and other resources would refer families to the centers early on.

Still, organizers encouraged families with children of any age to ask for services.

"We're going to be a better place. Be patient. Won't be tomorrow. As I said, it takes years and years but somewhere down the road, we'll see big dividends," Wharton said.

The Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) Center Task Force of Shelby County found about 52% of people experience some traumatic event in childhood, which can lead to violence or other bad behaviors later on.

Barbara Holden Nixon with the task force believed that plays a role in Memphis crime.

The group lobbied for the parenting centers.

"We know that these youngsters if they had the right things early on, would not be capable of doing the kinds of things that they're doing. It doesn't have to happen," Holden Nixon said.

The UPPs were based on a Parenting Institute in Oregon.

WREG toured both centers Thursday.

Each featured activities to occupy children while their parents seek services.

UPP Baptist Women's Site Director Paige Marcantal said her favorite part of the center was the kids playroom chairs.

She said she believed the UPPs would make a difference.

"I think, unequivocally yes, it will work, because we know what hasn't worked. And we know our prisons are getting fuller, and we know why now," Marcantal said.

WREG spoke with a mother a few blocks from the Knowledge Quest location on College on College Park Drive.

She said she planned to visit with a few questions about her 14-year-old and 12-year-old sons.

Mayor Wharton said he did not expect everyone to take advantage of this opportunity, but he believes it will have a long-term positive impact.

Parents can learn more at http://www.shelbycountyupp.com.