February is Parent Leadership Month, bringing attention to the importance of parent voices, and parent leadership in the child and family serving sectors. When parents lead and advocate, children and families get better access to the services and supports they need. Encouraging parents to use advocacy tools supports their roles as experts of their children, families, and communities, and supports their skills and confidence to advocate for their needs in many settings, including organizational and policy decision-making. Integrating parents at all levels is important to the HOPE framework because it intentionally focuses programs and services on the direct needs of the specific families accessing services.
There are many ways to add parent and family voices when implementing the HOPE framework. Last year, the HOPE National Resource Center (NRC) started the FACEs of HOPE (Family and Community Experts) Advisory Council. FACEs of HOPE advises the NRC on various projects to ensure that parent and family voice is incorporated in the work that we do. FACEs of HOPE also promotes diversity in decision-making at the HOPE NRC. So far, our work with FACEs has included: developing our anti-racism goals, creating a family survey for our HOPE Innovation Network, co-training with HOPE staff at the Annual HOPE Summit, and guest writing blog articles. This year, we are beginning to add FACEs of HOPE members to research projects to support our role in Community-Engaged Medicine.
Four Building Blocks of HOPE:
Relationship – With the inclusion of parent leadership, service professionals can build connections with children and families they serve, strengthening the program effectiveness.
Environment – When parents have the confidence, tools, and opportunities to advocate for their families, they can create environments where children feel seen and safe.
Engagement – Parents involvement in community decision making, will direct community investments to the activities, programs, and resources that are realistic and accessible to the children and youth in their communities.
Emotional Growth – Parent advocacy and leadership builds confidence for children and gives parents the opportunity to model and teach the advocacy skills that children will use for themselves. Children can find the power in their voices, and see themselves as being an important part of change.
Parent Leadership, FRIENDS National Center for Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention
A Guide to Forming Advisory Boards for Family-Serving Organizations
National Association for the Education of Young Children Family Engagement Principles
Lived Experience Brief, Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation – US DHHS and ICF