How to Develop and Foster Parent Leadership

How to Develop and Foster Parent Leadership

Last week, we published Meaningful Parent Leadership and Why It Matters, a blog by Candice Bataille discussing the importance of parent leadership and how it fits into Circle of Parents. In this blog, Candice shares how to develop parent leaders within the Circle of Parents program model.

Including parents and families in the overall governance of your Circle of Parents group is crucial to building and sustaining the program. This approach is a fundamental shift away from how many child and family serving programs originally were designed and administered. They have often excluded parents and families from critical decision-making with regard to program development, delivery of services, ongoing operations and administration.

First and foremost, as facilitators, we are encouraged to accept and relate to parents as leaders when they join the program. It’s true that many parents may appear shy and reserved at first. Creating a safe environment, keeping confidentiality, building trust, providing training and assigning small responsibilities can assist in starting to increase their own self-identity and capacity to take on leadership roles. To truly enhance the impact of Circle of Parents, both the facilitator and site team must relinquish some control to parents and recognize them as equal partners in determining what works for families within the framework for the particular group.

Parent Leadership Occurs In Numerous Ways

Parents can become leaders by taking on various roles in planning, implementing, leading meetings, fundraising, helping to set up logistics and foods, writing articles or assisting with data for Circle of Parents. In any particular Circle group, there may be several parent leaders that emerge. By taking a strengths-based approach and understanding their strengths and likes, the facilitator may assign different responsibilities to different parent leaders within a given group.

Possible Roles & Specific Activities

1) Organizational

  • write articles or blogs for the Circle of Parents network in coordination with Illuminate Colorado
  • be a part of host agency grant-making boards or committees
  • be a part of host site agency advisory boards or councils

2) Evaluation

  • gather data
  • keep attendance
  • help to distribute and gather surveys

3) Administrative

  • help promote and recruit other families in the community
  • write and review written and audiovisual materials
  • fundraising, help plan small events, or share a testimonial at a fundraising event

As more facilitators and host site professional staff see parents as contributors and communicators, more opportunities will unfold for parents to become involved and assume leadership roles. Engaging with parents and allowing them to provide direction and guidance is critical to making the Circle of Parents program more effective.

Illuminate Colorado is home to the Colorado state chapter of Circle of Parents. Visit the Circle of Parents webpage to learn more about the program and to find a group that’s right for you.

Meaningful Parental Leadership and Why It Matters

Meaningful Parental Leadership and Why It Matters

It’s hard to believe, but it’s already the beginning of February. And that means it’s officially Parent Leadership Month. It’s a time designed to highlight the opportunities and engage in partnerships that support strong and lasting roles for parents as leaders. One of those opportunities, Circle of Parents, is a great way for parents to take on leadership roles in Colorado. But what exactly are parent leaders? And how do they fit into the Circle of Parents model?

A parent leader is someone who represents the needs and perspectives of many parents without speaking or acting in a staff role for an organization or institution. Parents become leaders when they actively participate in the development and successful implementation of services to help them in their parenting roles and as leaders of their own families. And using their experiences as participants, coupled with a desire to “give back,” parent leaders build upon the knowledge and skills they gained to take on meaningful leadership roles within programs.

Within the Circle of Parents model, when a parent practices their leadership skills, not only does it help strengthen the group, but it also supports the parent leader in building their own self-esteem and their sense of self. This increases their capacity to relate more positively to others, it assists them in setting and accomplishing goals, generates a sense of hope, and strengthens their relationship with their own children, spouse or partner and family.

A Parent Leader:

  • may be a parent, grandparent, kinship care provider, foster parent, or anyone else in a parenting role.
  • has personal experience in using resources and/or services to strengthen their family.
  • is speaking and acting from their perspective as a parent.
  • is not speaking and acting in a staff role for an organization or institution.

Parent Leaders can be most effective when the following supports provide a strong foundation for their work:

  • a defined meaningful role as a Parent Leader
  • access to training
  • clear opportunities to contribute to program development, implementation, oversight and evaluation, policymaking, training and technical assistance, public awareness and outreach
  • tangible supports such as assistance with child care and transportation and compensation

Parent Leader Roles within Circle of Parents

The role of a parent leader is constantly evolving and there can be several parent leaders within one Circle of Parents group. Some specific roles a parent leader may assume are listed below.

Within Circle of Parents, parent leaders can:

  • take calls from prospective participants, introduce new participants during group meetings and events, and provide new participants with information about the program and resources.
  • take responsibility for the physical setting of the meeting or event, including securing the space, setting up the room, making sure resource materials are available for participants, and breaking the room down afterwards.
  • make participants feel welcome by greeting each parent who comes to an event.
  • start a group activity with icebreakers or other “get acquainted” activities.
  • end a group activity by summarizing what happened or setting dates or times for next steps.
  • make sure everyone has transportation to and from the meeting or special event.
  • take attendance and keep notes during meetings.
  • share responsibility for a children’s program or child care.

Illuminate Colorado is home to the Colorado state chapter of Circle of Parents. Visit the Circle of Parents webpage to learn more about the program and to find a group that’s right for you.

When Parenthood Comes Full Circle

When Parenthood Comes Full Circle

As I kissed her goodbye and blessed her “Dios Te Bendiga” (“God Bless You”), I walked away among the swarm of frantic and emotional parents just like me on moving day at the college dorms. Exiting the dorm building, I found a quiet place on campus, my mind suddenly filled with a cloud of memories, images, conversations, along with tears and laughter that could not be contained. Thoughts of 19 years of a path of putting my daughter’s developmental needs at a social, emotional, mental, physical and spiritual level in the forefront of my daily life, kept spinning. And it is in this moment that I’m convinced now, more than ever, that developing the social-emotional learning skills of our children early in their lives sets a stage for more positive outcomes down the road. 

In doing so, we help them feel confident about themselves, moving through the ups and downs of life with integrity and determination, avoiding staying down. Those are the skills that will help them navigate life, get along with others, establish positive relations, be aware of themselves (strengths and weaknesses), have empathy, make good decisions, regulate their emotions in a positive manner, resolve conflict and perform better academically – to get to moments like this.

As a parent and manager of the Circle of Parents ®program at Illuminate Colorado, I am proud that our organization is offering support to Colorado families and organizations alike to foster the social-emotional learning skills of our children. 

For the last several years as the Colorado Chapter of Circle of Parents, we’ve been focused on growing this national evidence-informed model to provide a friendly, supportive environment led by parents and other caregivers, where parents are the experts. And while we continued to grow more Circles, with 44 Circles in 12 counties connecting parents and caregivers, too often we’ve heard how parents are forced to deprioritize their own needs because they can’t find child care. I’m excited to announce that, later this fall, we will extend to parents and caregivers a helping hand in the process of continuously developing their children at a social-emotional level through Children’s Circle®, offered alongside Circle of Parents to provide a holistic experience for families.

Beginning Children’s Circle®

Illuminate Colorado created this new curriculum-based children’s program to build the social-emotional skills of the children of caregivers and parents attending Circles. Last month, we began training Circle of Parents facilitators and Children’s Circle leaders on the new curriculum consisting of 33 different lessons that can be used in any order highlighting skills such as: 

  • Self-Regulation/Calming,
  • Managing and recognizing emotions in self and others,
  • Conflict resolution,
  • Compassion and empathy and
  • Patience.

Designed by child development experts with a trauma-informed lens as well as an equity lens, the curriculum incorporates the Strengthening Families™ Protective Factors, as well as the competencies of social and emotional learning under CASEL (The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning). 

The goal of Children’s Circle is to provide developmentally appropriate, skill-building activities that will increase children’s confidence and self-worth while providing fun and enjoyment. This holistic approach to family support gives children a nurturing atmosphere, supportive skill building and structured play opportunities, while ensuring that parents have a safe, welcoming place to leave their children while they connect in the Circle of Parents – offered at no cost to the parents.

We will be offering another Children’s Circle training session on September 28-29 of this year. And as for me …well, the moment has arrived for my role as a mom to take more of a back seat. Continuously loving my daughters, providing support in times of need, checking in on them, enjoying life with them when they invite me or accept my invites, watching them navigate the ups and downs of life with confidence, crying with them, laughing with them…. As parents we never go away…such a beautiful and honorable role to play in life. Grateful.

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