October 15, 2020
Funding from the Illinois Head Start Association (IHSA) is now making it possible for parents with children in the RPC’s Early Childhood Education Program to become leaders and share their wisdom. In early October, the IHSA approved the RPC’s application to be part of a new initiative called Parent Cafés—engaging, reflective discussions hosted by parents, for parents. The RPC’s is one of only 18 Head Start programs in the state to receive approval.
During Parent Cafés, parents use the insights gained from their own experiences, as well as those of their peers and communities, to keep their families strong. During these monthly events, currently being held virtually and not in person, parents discuss challenges and model leadership skills to draw other parents into open, honest, meaningful conversations. Parent Leaders facilitate Parent Cafés by building trusting relationships, offering social support, and developing connections with other parents.
According to Brandi Granse, the RPC’s Early Childhood Division Director, “The funding and training from IHSA will help our program continue efforts to support parents, strengthen relationships, and offer a unique leadership opportunity for parents.”
In October, the RPC will have one Parent Leader and one Early Childhood Education Program staff member attend an IHSA-sponsored virtual training. The training will provide them with all the knowledge and tools needed to start conducting Parent Cafés successfully. The IHSA’s Process Coach will work directly with the identified Parent Leader and RPC staffer throughout the scope of the project.
“The IHSA’s approach is to support and nurture some of the special programs in the state by implementing the Parent Café model with integrity,” says Lauri Morrison-Frichtl, the IHSA’s Executive Director. “This is a wonderful opportunity for parents with children in programs like the RPC’s and I am sure they will love the Parent Cafés as much as we do.”
The RPC is also supporting those two individuals by providing Parent Leader training for at least 6-8 other parents with children in the program. Once fully implemented, the RPC’s Parent Cafés will reach at least 60 parents in the program, with the RPC providing support for the individual parents who attend, as well as stipends for the Parent Leaders who lead and facilitate the Parent Cafés each month.
The IHSA is making financial resources available to all 18 programs in the state to support their Parent Cafés, along with a stipend for the Parent Leaders who attend the virtual training. They are also providing Parent Café Guidebooks for all Parent Leaders, an electronic Parent Café Toolkit containing all the materials needed to conduct a Parent Café, recruitment flyers, and electronic evaluation forms. The RPC will begin conducting Parent Cafés in November.
The IHSA’s financial backing for the Parent Cafés was made possible by a grant from the Illinois Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development through a federal grant awarded to the State of Illinois. That federal funding, a Preschool Development Grant Birth Through Five (PDG B-5), came through the Administration for Children and Families at the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Education.