Abstract: Engaging Parents in Parent Cafes As Means to Build Relationships and Center Their Voice (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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Engaging Parents in Parent Cafes As Means to Build Relationships and Center Their Voice

Friday, January 13, 2023
Encanto B, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Wynette Whitegoat, PhD student, Washington University in Saint Louis, St. Louis, MO
Caren Bacon, Evaluation Manager, Washington University in Saint Louis
Yolanda West, Program Director, Vision for Children at Risk
Patricia Kohl, PhD, Associate Professor, Washington University in Saint Louis, St. Louis, MO
Background and Purpose: VCR, PACT-STL partners and evaluators selected Parent Cafés with the understanding that building trust with families is necessary to successfully develop relationships with parents engaged with other PACT-STL strategies. Through the implementation of Parent Cafés, an evidence-based peer-to-peer learning process, parents/caregivers involved in PACT-STL were given space to explore their strengths, connect with each other, and identify and build on existing protective factors. The Parent Café model places parents in control of the agenda topics and guide the direction of the discussion with the intent to build caregiver resiliency, strengthen their adaptability and focus under pressure, and offer guidance to each other during times of struggle.

Methods: To implement the Parent Cafés, PACT-STL hosted a training by Be Strong Families for community-based organization partners and parent leaders. The partners were trained to host cafés and ensure fidelity and sustainability. The parents were trained to take on leadership roles within the cafés. Partnering organizations recruit families from targeted zip codes by community outreach, flyers at community events and word of mouth. Parent cafes were delivered in a series of three sessions to introduce parents to the five protective factors based on the Strengthening Families Approach and Protective Factors Framework. Over the course of 13 months (December 2020 through November 2021), approximately 12 parent cafés were held by VCR. The average number of attendees at the Parent Café sessions was 20 participants. Feedback from parents were gathered after each session using a participant satisfaction survey and the retrospective Protective Factors Survey-2. Together the forms provided details of the parents’ beliefs and attitudes of the session topics and their perceptions of how each session met their expectations and needs.

Findings: Overall, parents enjoyed their experience of the cafés, finding value in participating and viewing the cafés as a way to enhance trust. On the Parent Café satisfaction form, on average 96.6% of respondents strongly agreed/agreed that they wanted to get more involved with the host agency as a result of their Café experience. In addition, on average 92.7% of respondents strongly agreed/agreed that they see themselves being able and willing to be a part of a Parent Café team. Furthermore, 98.7% of respondents strongly agreed/agreed that they felt safe sharing with other participants in the Café. On the open-ended questions, respondents at each café wrote in a response identifying “how amazing” the café experience was.

Conclusion/Implications: By centering parents' voices and giving parents leadership roles, this aspect of PACT STL removes barriers and inequities and emphasizes parent-engaged solution building. The use of Parent Cafes in the multi-level participatory framework developed by PACT-STL creates relationship-building opportunities with families that are intentional and inform service providers of caregiver needs.