2012 California State Parent Leadership

 Innovative Program Leadership Award 

 
Together We Will: Parent-Shared Leadership Academy is a dynamic training program to empower parents to advocate for their families, become change agents for their children, and work constructively to gain a powerful voice in San Luis Obispo County for children and families.

 

Mission Statement: We educate, support and organize to become leaders for family strengthening and building healthy communities

Parent involvement is recognized nationally and regionally as an important component to service delivery.  In 2007 the San Luis Obispo County Child Abuse Prevention Council(SLO-CAP), a nonprofit organization recognized there was no organized mechanism in our county to assure that 1) parents have the tools they need to become involved and 2) agencies understand the importance of involving parents.  Together We Will addresses these needs.  With the support of CBCAP (Community Based Child Abuse Prevention) funds, SLO-CAP developed a course which includes persuasive communication, active listening tools, and other skills needed for parents to become change agents for their families.  The curriculum also includes classes in civics and the tenets of democracy, i.e., how budgets are developed, how parents can impact legislation, how parents can empower themselves to have input on the community, school, regional and state level.

This program, which has completed its fourth year, has created a cadre of parents who understand how our government works, i.e., civics and have the skills to become partners in the development of services which are efficient and meet their needs.  These skills allow parents to help plan and evaluate service delivery, engage parents in policy-setting and decision-making tables, with the constant goal to improve family functioning.

The goals for Together We Will are three-fold:

  • Engage parents in system planning: Parents receive the tools and support they need to become meaningful members of boards, advisory and planning councils.
  • Improve Family Functioning: Show parents that they provide a necessary voice and can be key partners in shaping the service delivery agenda.  The skills acquired in Together We Will enhance parents’ ability to advocate for themselves and their families and promotes positive role modeling in the family, thus strengthening the family unit.
  • Improve Systems: Helps develop integrated, consumer-oriented, accessible services which meet the needs of the families served. Parents, caregivers, and service providers acquire skills and confidence to work as a team to develop a plan to ensure meaningful parent participation in the development of policies and delivery of meaningful services to children and families. 

Definitions

Parent Leadership occurs when parents address the challenges of parenting, gain the knowledge and skills to function in meaningful leadership roles and represent a “parent voice” to help shape the direction of their families, programs and communities.

Shared Leadership is successfully achieved when parents and professionals build effective partnerships and share responsibility, expertise and leadership in decision being made that affect families and communities.

Parent Leaders are parents who have the skills, knowledge, and desire to become involved in the new way of collaborating.

Key Elements of the Program

  • Meet weekly at a designated time and place
  • The participants make a commitment to each other to participate
  • Because the program encourages the building of a team, we recommend that no new members can join after the orientation
  • Provide child care and a meal (An important component is to have the participants share in providing meals for each other.) 
  • Provide a transportation stipend or other help with transportation (car pooling, etc.)

This 12-week program provides parents with the tools they need to work as advocates, change agents, and partners with agency staff for positive change.

  • Orientation:  Families and Children: Creating a Community of Caring
  • Understanding Diversity and the Group Process
  • Family Function, Family Structure and Child Development
  • Communication Skills and the Use of Language
  • Community Resources and How They Work
  • The Change Process and Parents as Change Agents
  • The Power of the Media and How to Use It
  • Civics: How To Affect Public Policy
  • Civics: How Our Governmental Systems Work
  • Understanding the Law and Our Court Systems
  • Budgets – How They Impact Our Children and Families
  • Retreat:  Evaluation and Goals for the Future

Graduation

Graduates of TOGETHER WE WILL represent this program at the California State Parent Leadership Conferences, and locally at the Mental Health Services Act forums and Gang Prevention Task Force being convened by the Department of Probation.   Parent Leaders also participate as advisory members of the Youth Coalition in Nipomo, Oceano Family Resource Center and North County Connection in Atascadero.   Our goal is that each Family Resource Center in San Luis Obispo County establishes a Parent Advisory Council, form a county-wide Parent Cabinet and offer a convening at least once per year specifically to bring our graduates together.