Parents are central to family support models and should be encouraged to develop to their potential. Parent support, education, and leadership work together to help them develop the skills to do just that. By fostering parents in the role of experts and leaders, families benefit from improved self-worth and act as better advocates for their needs. In contrast, programs benefit from being more responsive and accountable to the families they serve.
Parent leadership is fostered on a meaningful level when parents are given the opportunity for personal growth to gain the knowledge and skills to function in leadership roles and represent a “parent voice” to help shape the direction of their families, programs, and communities. Parent leadership is successfully achieved when parents and practitioners build effective partnerships based upon mutual respect and shared responsibility, expertise, and leadership in the decisions being made that affect their own families, other families, and their communities.
Parent education and support programs are good first steps in fostering leadership in parents. They provide parents with the tools they need to become more confident parents and to bond with other parents. This confidence and connection to other families can then be supported and encouraged to move parents towards more meaningful roles in programs by giving them opportunities to become a part of the team developing the programs rather than merely the persons benefiting from the services provided. A great resource in this area is:
This white paper provides an overview of the Peppercorn Foundation approach to parent leadership development and features three parent organizing grantees. It compares and contrasts three approaches to mobilizing parents to be effective change agents on behalf of their children: parent involvement, parent engagement, and parent organizing. Three parent-led organizations discuss all work on child care and early learning issues for low-income families.
FRIENDS works actively with Circle of Parents® and other organizations on a national level to support and encourage parent engagement and leadership. For more information on this exciting topic, please see some additional resources below.