Parent Leadership: Strong Families, Strong Communities, Healthy Children 

Parent Leadership: Strong Families, Strong Communities, Healthy Children 

February is Parent Leadership Month! Parent leadership is a critical way for families to build upon their strengths, which leads to strong communities and healthy children. Circle of Parents groups–support groups that provide a community where caregivers support each other–are places where parent leaders shine. 

This month, Illuminate will be diving into why parent leaders are integral to strong communities, how parents can grow into leadership roles, and the importance of recognizing and celebrating the work of parent leaders. Join us!

What is a Parent Leader?

Being a leader can look different for every parent. Toni Miner, Circle of Parents program manager at Illuminate Colorado, explained that parent leaders might start out by volunteering at their child’s school, joining a parent-teacher association, or providing support to other parents. Parents who take on leadership roles within a Circle of Parents group, referred to as Parent Leads, take on the responsibility of helping to lead the group and facilitate a productive and supportive discussion. Parent Leads have lived experiences and perspectives that allow them not only to authentically relate to their peers, but also to provide structure and support to group discussions.

Meet Toni

Circle of Parents Program Manager

Becoming a Parent Lead

Every parent’s journey in becoming a leader for their family and community looks different, and we should honor the experiences of parents who come from all backgrounds. Parents who are on their journey to becoming a Parent Lead for their Circle of Parents group, Miner said, might contribute by being the timekeeper for meetings, greeting other parents as they arrive, contributing to group meals, or helping to clean up after meetings. Any and all acts of giving time and partnership help to build important parent leadership skills. 

When identifying potential Parent Leads, Miner explained that she supports parents in being open to learning, as well as understanding how to maintain healthy boundaries and relationships with other group members. These are important skills in being a Parent Lead because they play an essential role in setting the foundation for how the group is run.

After building their leadership skills, parents can become official Parent Leads by completing a facilitator training, where they learn about relationships based on equality and respect, what it means to practice shared leadership in a Circle of Parents setting, and how the program model utilizes the five protective factors of child maltreatment prevention. 

Learn more about the Circle of Parents model and the five protective factors here.

Parent Leads are integral to the Circle of Parents model.

They are peers of those in their group, support others in developing leadership skills within their families and communities, and contribute an authentic voice to group discussions. The work of Parent Leads helps to strengthen Colorado families and communities, resulting in brighter childhoods for all children. This month, we place a special emphasis on and celebrate their contributions. 

Interested in recognizing the parent leaders in your community?

Check out the Children’s Trust Fund Alliance’s resources for requesting, supporting, or accepting a proclamation of February as Parent Leadership Month.

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Recognizing Outstanding Parent Leads During Parent Leadership Month

Recognizing Outstanding Parent Leads During Parent Leadership Month

Earlier this month, Illuminate kicked off Parent Leadership Month by talking about what parent leadership is, and why parent leaders are integral to strong communities. This week, we look to recognize outstanding Parent Leads from Circle of Parents groups across Colorado. Join us!

“We need to get every parent involved in this.”

“We need to get every parent involved in this.”

Judge Meinster Speaks to the Effectiveness of Circle of Parents

We recently had the chance to speak with Judge Ann Meinster of Jefferson County, a major proponent of and advocate for the Circle of Parents program. Judge Meinster presides over the Family Integrated Treatment (FIT) court, a voluntary track that families can opt into when involved in the child welfare system. Having witnessed time and time again how peer support is critical to parents’ wellbeing, Judge Meinster often refers families to Circle of Parents. 

Circle of Parents provides a friendly, supportive community led by parents and other caregivers. Participants are invited to share support, tips or advice in a safe space with those in their communities. The Circle of Parents model is evidence-informed and has been shown to improve resiliency in children by increasing the protective factors in their environment. 

There are several types of Circle of Parents groups, including those specifically for fathers, parents of children with special healthcare needs, and Spanish-speaking parents. Judge Meinster explained to us that through her work she sees the benefits of the Parents in Recovery group most often. 

The goal of her court, Judge Meinster told us, is to provide wrap-around support to families in order to reunify children with their parents or ensure children can remain in the home. Judge Meinster– and increasingly more professionals in her field– know that peer support is critical to achieving this goal. Specifically, parents need ongoing community support focused around substance use. What’s special about the Parents in Recovery groups is that not only are parents able to bond over their experiences in recovery, but they can also connect over the shared struggles of being a parent, and often of being involved in the child welfare system. That is a perspective that no one else has– and it is critical to long-term sobriety. 

“It’s not just people in recovery…it’s also parents who are involved in the child welfare system…that’s an additional bond that parents form…you can’t overstate the effectiveness of that.”

– Judge Meinster

Judge Meinster will sometimes pop into a Circle of Parents meeting to both reconnect with parents she’s had in her courtroom and see some new faces. She told us that the scene is truly inspirational: parents connecting, sharing, and supporting each other. Even the parents who have been attending group meetings for over five years are not only just supporting others but are also still talking about the struggles they currently face– the model of good recovery.  

“They trust each other and they trust Toni [the facilitator]…It really is the most successful program I’ve seen that a court has been able to refer to.”

– Judge Meinster

Caregivers come in all shapes and sizes, which is why Illuminate Colorado supports over 40 Circle of Parents groups in 12 counties across the state. To learn more about Circle of Parents, or find the group that’s best for you, visit CircleOfParentsCO.org.  

Find Your Circle Today!

Check out our interactive map to get connected with a group!

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Recognizing Outstanding Parent Leads During Parent Leadership Month

Recognizing Outstanding Parent Leads During Parent Leadership Month

Earlier this month, Illuminate kicked off Parent Leadership Month by talking about what parent leadership is, and why parent leaders are integral to strong communities. This week, we look to recognize outstanding Parent Leads from Circle of Parents groups across Colorado. Join us!

How Circle of Fathers Helps Me

How Circle of Fathers Helps Me

To achieve our mission to strengthen families, organizations and communities to prevent child maltreatment, Illuminate Colorado is focused on growing Circle of Parents® in Colorado.

This national, evidence-informed model provides a friendly, supportive environment led by parents and other caregivers. Circle groups give anyone in a parenting role a place to openly discuss the successes and challenges of raising children, free from judgment. Growing Circles of Fathers around the state is particularly important to our work. We asked one father to share why his group is important to him and his family.

Read Dave’s Circle of Parents Story . . . 

One of the most beautiful gifts on this planet is to be a parent. Parenting comes with beautiful moments and also challenges. It’s the latter that we learn the most about ourselves and our kids.

As a father, it took me some time to, first, admit that I needed help and then more courage to reach out and say “I need help”. I want to share with other parents that even though this gesture sounds simple, it’s important to know I had to overcome how I was raised and my perception of what being a father meant to me to make that connection. It seems so silly now because once I asked the help came flooding, and I mean FLOODING in!

There have been several organizations and groups that have helped me over the years, but my Circle of Fathers group has been the most important to me and continues to be. I could write for some time about everything the group contributes to my life, but I want to highlight the impact it has had on my ability to support my son’s education. You see, I, like many parents, have needed to play a big part in homeschooling my son. 

As I continue to raise my son, I watch as his ability to learn grows every day. Honestly, I have no idea what his capacity is yet because it seems to be boundless. I see so many educational opportunities I can incorporate into my son’s life. One of the fathers shared online classes with me and my son loves to do them every week! It’s funny that a small mention of an activity that works at home for one parent can have such a big impact on another child’s life.

My local Circle of Fathers group is strengthening my family every time I connect, which is often. In addition to attending meetings online and in person,  checking on our Circle of Fathers Facebook Group posts are now a daily part of my life. The ideas I get from our diverse group of parents have helped me expand my fathering skills and I love it! Every post I read relating to topics my son and I are facing is so inventive, and the tips and tricks that I get from other parents are really ingenious.

I want to thank every parent who takes the time to understand what Circle of Parents means to all the parents getting support in this way. It’s inspirational and a beautiful gift that parenting is connected to countless others who love raising little ones!

I encourage other parents and caregivers to connect and find their Circle.

About the Author

About the Author

Dave is a proud father to his nine year-old son living in Colorado Springs. He has a deep understanding of what needs to happen at a community level in order to transform systems so that families get the preventative support they need, having experienced homelessness and spends his time helping other fathers make progress in their lives in order to attain greater fulfillment.

One Father’s Journey Through Parenthood with Community Resources

One Father’s Journey Through Parenthood with Community Resources

I never thought I would ever become homeless until it happened. A number of events led me to a point in my life where I needed to find a temporary home so that I could start working to rebuild my life from the ground up and continue to support my basic needs and be there for my son. I want to share and highlight a few community support programs that have had a big impact on my life and that of my son’s because I know that it is so important to breakdown the stigma of getting support as a parent. But first, I want to tell you about my son.

I am a father to a 9 year-old boy who has has the funniest sense of humor. He has this awesome joy inside of him that marvels over the simplest things, like a dollar store toy, a plastic device that makes snowballs or even a pack of gum. And, through his wonderment of these things he teaches me that life doesn’t have to be so complex and I too can enjoy the simple moments. My son and I have an amazingly strong relationship built on trust, love and the ability to learn and grow…together. I am honored and privileged to be a father.

But, parenting isn’t always easy. There’s no book to follow on how to be a perfect parent and it can be difficult at times. The good news is there’s so many resources in all of our communities that are reaching out to us to provide services, programs and support as we navigate our parental journey. These are just a few of the community organizations that have made an impact on my family in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Springs Rescue Mission

It was late in the year and it started to get cold outside. I had exhausted all other resources and had to find housing very quickly. As I entered the shelter at Springs Rescue Mission for the very first time, I was greeted with open arms and care. Immediately, I had a bed and began to learn what resources were available to me.

The caregivers at Springs Rescue Mission were amazing at connecting me to everything I needed. I had some medical issues and was put into contact with a doctor within days. I was shown where to get food at a number of locations. As you might imagine, my stress and anxiety levels were high and I was quickly connected to a provider to manage my mental health. When it came to generating income, Springs Rescue Mission was able to provide me with electricity and internet access so that I could continue to support the remote clients that I had. They also had jobs posted every week and clinics available for resume building and interviewing skills.

When times were difficult, I could reach out and talk to any of the shelter employees and they listened to me as we talked through issues that affected me as a parent. I can’t thank Springs Rescue Mission enough for supporting my basic needs, connecting me to all the resources I needed, and for helping me get back on my feet. This is just one shelter among many that provide a roof, food, and hands to help guide us back upwards.

Circle of Parents

The Circle of Parents® in Colorado is an online and in-person weekly meeting where parents come together, share thoughts, ideas and problems. In return, those in the group receive advice and resources to help make parenting a little easier. It’s a collection of parents needing help and through the bonds that are built… grow stronger, together. You learn very quickly in groups like these that you are never alone and help is just an email, text or phone call away.

For me, each week connects me to other fathers that are knowledgeable about local parent/child events and educational opportunities like parenting books, articles, or websites. It’s a safe place to share challenges and success stories and bond with other fathers.

Center on Fathering

Although there are many more organizations I could share, I do want to mention just one more; the Center on Fathering which has been a bedrock of support to strengthen our role as parents through parenting classes, support groups and access to educational materials.

I reached out to community organizations for help and it’s made me a better parent. If I can leave you with just one message today, it would be this…  it’s OK for parents to ask for support. We all need it. We all need to connect with one another—as parents—to share the information, resources, tips and tricks that we learn along the way.

Build Concrete Support in Times of Need

When families are connected and have access to concrete supports in their community that help minimize stress caused by challenges, we strengthen the foundation for families and communities to thrive. ​This is what child abuse prevention looks like in my life. Together, we can become the best parents we can be. For fathers, it feels especially difficult for us to reach out to one another to connect as parents and get support. This is the pledge I make to myself, to continue to connect and I’m sharing my story to grow a better tomorrow for all children, together. 

About the Author

About the Author

Dave is a proud father to his nine year-old son living in Colorado Springs. He has a deep understanding of what needs to happen at a community level in order to transform systems so that families get the preventative support they need, having experienced homelessness and spends his time helping other fathers make progress in their lives in order to attain greater fulfillment.

Related Posts

Recognizing Outstanding Parent Leads During Parent Leadership Month

Recognizing Outstanding Parent Leads During Parent Leadership Month

Earlier this month, Illuminate kicked off Parent Leadership Month by talking about what parent leadership is, and why parent leaders are integral to strong communities. This week, we look to recognize outstanding Parent Leads from Circle of Parents groups across Colorado. Join us!

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.

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