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Parent Leadership

Parent Leadership is a strengths-based approach grounded in the belief that parents are the most knowledgeable about their families and communities. Parent leaders provide valuable insight into programs and community efforts that benefit all children and families. Parent leadership is meaningful when parents and staff throughout the organization work together as partners to make decisions about programs, policies, and practices that affect families and communities, and share responsibility, expertise, accountability, and leadership.

For families, the benefits include opportunities to give input in the programs and services they receive, increasing their sense of personal achievement and providing a model of leadership for their family and other families. For practitioners, the benefits are also significant. Parent – Practitioner collaboration can improve relationships between families and providers as well improve efforts to recruit and retain program Participants

When parents see themselves as stakeholders, and when organizations and practitioners create opportunities to collaborate with parents and families, many benefits are possible. Partnering with parents promotes mutually beneficial relationships between families and the family strengthening field

When parents see that agencies are serious about inviting them into leadership positions, they and their families benefit in many ways. Active participation in policy and program development, advocacy, and decision-making builds knowledge and skills that are transferable to other professional and personal areas of life. It can:

  • increase a sense of personal achievement,
  • open doors for employment,
  • offer a leadership role model for other families, and
  • provide a model of community involvement and empowerment for parents, children, and families.

Parent involvement, awareness, and acceptance of responsibility begin when a parent enters a program and evolves over time. By recognizing a parent’s leadership skills and collaborating with them, the organization builds capacity while helping to strengthen the parent as an individual and improves outcomes for the family and children.

Successful partnerships that strive for parent and practitioner collaboration on the local, state and federal levels promote a positive self-concept that helps parents:

  • manage stress,
  • maintain positive self-esteem,
  • feel in control of their lives,
  • improve their sense of competence in parenting, and
  • develop an increased desire to give back to their community

Collaboration between families and agencies is extremely beneficial for programs and program staff by:

  • Providing an opportunity for cross-cultural learning, an increased appreciation of diverse cultures, and helping programs provide services that are culturally relevant and appropriate.
  • Modeling partnership and collaborative leadership through agency policy and practice that can be duplicated on a local level;
  • Meeting the needs of families and eliminating barriers to positive outcomes through agency policy and mandates;
  • Encouraging and recognizing successful partnerships between practitioners and parents; and
  • Developing opportunities for parent representation on statewide governing bodies that can positively influence multiple systems impacting children, families, and communities.

As parents and practitioners build trusting relationships in respectful and inclusive environments, parents expand their leadership capabilities beyond themselves and their own families and become partners with the programs in which they are involved. Inclusion and integration of their “parent voice” becomes a strategy for enhancing program effectiveness.

Organizations and staff who work directly with parents and families in the community will find that sharing leadership with parents can:

  • enhance relationships between families and providers;
  • improve the quality of programs and services;
  • develop a fresh perspective on how services should be delivered;
  • increase visibility of and respect for the program in the community;
  • contribute to the stability of the community; and
  • improve communication skills and increase self-sufficiency in families served by trained parent leaders

Engaging parents in leadership activities can help organizations:

  • offer family support services that are more relevant to the needs of families;
  • institute a culturally relevant and appropriate service delivery system;
  • improve efforts to recruit and retain participants;
  • achieve better outcomes for families and communities; and
  • produce sustainable programs.
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