Methods: Two focus groups were conducted with individuals (N = 6) who were currently employed as peer parents, one group consisting of peer parents who had been in their role for at least three years (n = 3), and one group consisting of peer parents who had been in their role for one year (n = 3). One individual interview was conducted with a peer parent who was contracted with the agency. Additionally, four individual interviews were conducted with agency staff who held supervisory or administrative positions. Transcripts of the focus groups and individual interviews were checked for accuracy and entered into NVivo to assist in organizing and coding the data. The data coding and theme identification was an iterative process and consensus was reached by the coding teams throughout the process. Specific statements made by participants that exemplified a theme or sub-theme were identified.
Results: Three general themes were identified to which peer parents referenced their feelings and experiences, including how the job helped transition peer parents into a new chapter of their lives, leveraging past experiences for growth, and peer parents being the missing piece in child welfare. Two principal themes were identified to which supervisors frequently referenced regarding peer parents and the program, including how lived experience brings a unique level of valuable expertise that cannot be taught and the evolution of program and the peer parent role. There were additional sub-themes associated with each overarching peer parent and supervisor theme.
Conclusion and Implications: Peer parent programs provide an opportunity to parents formerly involved in the child welfare system to transition into a new role, from being the receiver of services to the provider, as many peer parents participated in the peer parent program themselves. Peer parents find their work to be personally fulfilling as they draw on their lived experience to assist parents in navigating their child welfare cases. Furthermore, peer parents feel supported and valued by their supervisors, as supervisors acknowledge the expertise that each peer parent brings to the job, include them in decision making, and foster their professional growth. Child welfare agencies should consider implementing peer parent programs, as the program not only benefits the peer parents, but the child welfare involved parents the program serves.