Parent Leadership & Advocacy
The primary goal of Family Connections' parent education, leadership and advocacy component is to help parents gain the skills and confidence necessary to become lifelong leaders and advocates for their children. Each parent who enters Family Connections arrives with a different set of expectations and needs. We work with parents to help them identify attainable goals and give them opportunities to take on leadership and advocacy roles throughout the school year.
Parents Taking on Classroom Responsibilities
Parents are encouraged to take an active role in Family Connections from day one. Each parent selects a job that they are expected to carry out during the school year. For example, one parent may be in charge of organizing field trips and another may keep track of which families are signed up to bring snack. The role of the Family Connections staff is to encourage parents to stay on task and to cooperate as a community.
Parents Identifying Children's Goals
Several weeks into the school year, parents fill out goal sheets that set the stage for what they hope their child will learn throughout the year. The education staff helps parents think about developmentally appropriate goals for their children and they work with the parents throughout the year to help them monitor those goals.
Parents Presenting New Ideas
Parents participate monthly in Family Forums and Focus Groups. During these discussions, which happen both formally and informally, parents are encouraged to share new ideas about improving the school. For example, parents might make suggestions about the format of class, or topics in parent education they would like to discuss. This is also a chance for parents to discuss activities happening during the school day and to evaluate what is and isn't working well.
Fathers & Male Caregivers Participating
Fathers are strongly encouraged to participate at Family Connections. Some fathers have a flexible work schedule which allows them to attend the morning preschool class. In addition, Family Connections has monthly family nights, field trips and several other opportunities to encourage fathers and male caregivers to participate in their children's education. During family nights, mothers and fathers attend teacher-led discussions together. When fathers are engaged early on in their child’s education, they are more likely to stay involved throughout their children’s school years.
Parents Sharing Their Stories
There are several opportunities throughout the school year for parents to address local governments, service organizations and other school groups. Parents who indicate an interest work with program staff on speaking skills and addressing different audiences. Parents learn how to articulate their stories and to express their family's growth throughout their involvement with Family Connections. When parents share their experiences they provide a powerful testimony to our work and are able to gain important advocacy skills at the same time.
Parents Mentoring Parents
This is an opportunity for parents to share what they have learned with another parent. Parents who have participated in public speaking events or who have taken on higher job responsibilities in the classroom are encouraged to mentor less experienced parents.
“I’ve brought my kids since they were a baby. My son, Ryan, was having problems as a toddler talking. I believe that having him with other children helped him with his talking. At Family Connections, I saw progress.”