The 4-H Living Interactive Family Education (LIFE) program is a 4-H and family-strengthening program for children of offenders and their families.

Program components

The goal of the 4-H LIFE program is to provide a strong, healthy and nurturing family environment while helping the incarcerated parent become a positive role model.

  • The target audience for the program is incarcerated parents and their children, grandchildren, and other family members. The program consists of three components:
  • Parenting skills class — Incarcerated parents who participate in the 4-H LIFE program attend regularly scheduled parenting skills classes to develop and improve the skills needed to interact in a positive, age-appropriate way with their children.
  • Planning meeting — At the monthly planning meeting, the incarcerated parents work with MU Extension faculty and Department of Corrections staff to help design and plan the 4-H youth and family activities for the upcoming 4-H family/club meeting. The original 4-H LIFE group at Potosi also uses this time to plan fundraisers for the 4-H Club youth members.
  • 4-H LIFE family club meeting — The 4-H LIFE family club meeting takes place monthly during visitation at the correctional center. Children, their incarcerated parents, and caregivers work together on traditional 4-H activities such as arts and crafts, demonstrations and other curricula-based activities focused on topics such as communication, decision making, and problem solving. Working together as a family on 4-H activities gives children an opportunity to show their parents their ability and intellect. It also gives the parents an opportunity to show their children that they can provide capable and caring parental guidance.

4-H LIFE program results

The 4-H LIFE evaluation has revealed significant outcomes for the children and youth participating in the 4-H LIFE program. Outcomes include improved self-esteem and social skills, a reduced sense of isolation, and strengthened relationships with their parent.

Click to go to the 4-H LIFE program pilot site evaluation reports. Dr. Elizabeth G. Dunn, evaluator for the original 4-H LIFE program at Potosi Correctional Center, developed a Web-based evaluation of the 4-H LIFE program.

The 4-H LIFE program has been featured in local and national media.


Contact: Lynna J. Lawson

The 4-H LIFE program is supported by University of Missouri Extension, the Children, Youth and Families at Risk (CYFAR) Initiative, the Missouri Children's Trust Fund, the National 4-H Council and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) Program.