Service providers can foster a more trusting relationship when they approach parents as being the experts on their own children and situations, listen openly to their concerns and perspectives, and seek solutions with them (rather than provide solutions for them). Parents engaged in this way are more likely to invite and welcome providers' support in evaluating needs, developing goals, and identifying effective ways to strengthen their family and care for children. Service providers can also promote self-confidence and empower parents to take a leadership role in their communities and the agencies with which they are involved.
Use the following resources to learn more about parent engagement and leadership, including State and local examples.
Be Strong Families
Describes the principles of Cafés, which are events where parents and caregivers come together to share the challenges and rewards of raising a family, and offers several resources to create and support Cafés.
Circle of Parents
Provides training and technical assistance regarding parent leadership as well as resources on parent involvement.
Engaging Families and Children in Prevention & Early Intervention Services [Video]
Waid & Kutzler (2021)
Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare
Reviews barriers to engaging families with prevention services, discusses models that better link families to identified care, and proposes best practices for engaging prevention services recipients.
Engaging Vulnerable Families in Voluntary Preventative Programs: Lessons From Seven Jurisdictions Across the U.S.
Harvard Kennedy School, Government Performance Lab (2021)
Provides an overview of lessons learned by seven jurisdictions with successful strategies for identifying vulnerable families and better engaging them in receiving services and supports.
Meaningful Parent Partnerships and What They Can Do for You (PDF - 1,619 KB)
Children’s Bureau Learning and Coordination Center (2018)
Presents information to help child- and family-serving staff better build and sustain relationships with parents as they serve in partnership roles assisting in agency transformation.
A Better Way, Inc.
Operates programs that employ parents with lived experience in child welfare as mentors to support families in navigating the system.
Parent Engagement and Leadership Assessment Guide and Toolkit: Full Report
Center for the Study of Social Policy
Offers professionals working with young children and their families tools for engaging families as collaborative partners in their child’s growth and development.
Parent Partner Programs for Families Involved in the Child Welfare System
California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare
Presents descriptions and ratings of parent partner programs regarding their effectiveness in engaging parents in meeting their safety, permanency, and well-being goals.
Parent Partner Program Navigator
Capacity Building Center for States
Guides child welfare agencies in the design, implementation, and enhancement of parent partner programs as a strategy for engaging families through mentoring and support.
Partnering With Parents
Children’s Trust Fund Alliance
Teaches how to build and sustain effective parent partnerships and explains the stages of relationship development. It also outlines ways parents can contribute to a program, the benefits of partnering with organizations in the community, and more.
Raising the Future
Offers a free online community (formerly known as Parents Anonymous) for parents to talk about ways to develop and expand their leadership skills and opportunities. It also provides resources for community members and policymakers who work with or are interested in working with parent leaders in shared leadership.
What Are the Key Elements for Sustaining, Expanding, and Spreading Parent Partner Programs?
Casey Family Programs (2020)
Offers suggestions for ways to sustain and expand parent partner programs from staff members of seven different parent partner programs across the country.
The Early Childhood Family Engagement Framework: Maryland’s Vision for Engaging Families With Young Children (PDF - 4,900 KB)
Maryland Family Engagement Coalition
Presents a framework that Maryland has implemented to support intentional thinking on family engagement policy implementation among early child care and education providers.
Leadership Training for Parents
Minnesota Head Start Association (MHSA)
Offers annual training opportunities for parents across Minnesota, including on civic leadership and how the Minnesota Legislature works. Parent participants also have the opportunity to serve on the MHSA board of directors, giving them further opportunity to affect change.
Provides resources on parent leadership in special education, including questions parent leaders should ask, how to partner with a child’s school, and how to serve as a representative in State and local groups.
Strengthening Partnerships: A Framework for Prenatal Through Young Adulthood Family Engagement in Massachusetts (PDF - 11,000 KB)
Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
Provides a roadmap that Massachusetts uses to increase family engagement.