Abstract: Parenting While Black: A Pilot Program Supporting Black Parents and Adolescents (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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Parenting While Black: A Pilot Program Supporting Black Parents and Adolescents

Friday, January 13, 2023
Ahwatukee B, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
James Huguley, Ed.D, Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and Associate Professor, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
Kyndra Cleveland, Ph.D, Research Associate, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
Cecily Davis, MSW, Doctoral Student, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
Rachelle Haynik, MPA, Research and Evaluation Coordinator, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
Background. Events of the past two years have brought urgent, national attention to the disproportionate educational and mental health burdens endured by Black youth, families, and communities. These burdens are compounded by disparate access to contextually tailored, high-quality education and mental health services. Currently, very few parenting interventions directly address responses to educational inequities and the racism-related mental health needs of Black parents and their adolescent children, and existing interventions tend to be based on informal knowledge and practices rather than rigorous best practice research.

Methods. The current study aimed to examine the experiences and outcomes associated with Parenting While Black (PWB), a strengths-based, community-collaborative program serving Black parents and caretakers. PWB leverages best-practice research within the racial socialization framework to implement a 6-week group-based program for parents that provides them with tools to support their youths’ educational success, and also their children’s and their own mental health. Two PWB pilot programs were conducted in the spring of 2021 with a total of 20 African American parents. Participants were recruited in collaboration with local schools and community-based programs supporting Black families. The program was facilitated by an African American social worker and two African American educators. All participants took pre- and post-surveys that captured general parenting practices, their usage of racial socialization strategies, and their degrees and types of parental educational involvement.

Results. Pre- post-survey assessments suggested statistically significant increases in the use of multiple target parenting outcomes in the areas of both positive racial socialization (e.g., pride socialization, spiritual coping, racial resilience), and educational involvement (e.g., teacher engagement, academic socialization). Several other outcomes trended positive as well, including promoting knowledge of racial history, homework monitoring, and promoting academic priorities. Participants were also highly satisfied with the program: 85% of respondents noted that they would be willing to participate in future programs, and separately that they would recommend the program to friends. Qualitative interviews with a subset of five parent-participants confirmed the strongly positive experience with the program, especially with the opportunity to connect with other participants on issues of race and parenting. As one respondent noted, “African American families need each other–social networks–to raise healthy and happy children. That was one of the greatest benefits of the PWB program.” Multiple respondents also reported that they would prefer the program to be longer than six weeks, in one case noting that “As I got into it, and it poured more knowledge into me, I thought six weeks wasn’t enough.”

Implications. Findings here are limited by the small sample and regional specificity of the pilot implementation. Nevertheless, these pilot results demonstrate the potential impact of strengths-based, research-grounded group interventions specifically supporting African American parenting, which are currently scarce. The next phase of this research will focus on larger, wait-list control enabled samples with more power to validate current trend-level findings, and with particular attention to program expansion and assessment related to mental health outcomes.