Hi! We are Yolanda King and Jeannette Thomas and we are Parent Partners with Aspiranet Wraparound. We have been Parent Partners for almost 9 years and would like to tell you about our Parent Café. We have been doing Parent Café at our office for the past year following training on implementation for our families.
What is Parent Café?
The Parent Café program is a nationally recognized peer-to-peer learning process that was developed by parent leaders from Strengthening Families Illinois as a way to bring families and caregivers together for support in a structured format. Parent Cafés are physically and emotionally safe spaces where parents and caregivers talk about their challenges, strategies and successes. Through participation in cafés, parents and caregivers build leadership and relationship skills as well as the protective factors that help to strengthen their families. The focus is on 5 Protector Factors. They include: building parental resilience, increasing knowledge of parenting and child development, making positive social connections, developing concrete support in times of need and using communication tools to build social and emotional competence in children.
We have Parent Café once a month in the evening and all of our Wraparound families are invited to participate. Parent Café is a parent-driven, intimate space where parents and caregivers can share and support one another.
What does it look like?
Parent Cafés are designed to be an informal, safe and have an inviting atmosphere with small tables arranged to mimic a café. We create groups of 1-3 individuals that have conversations focused around specific questions. The individual parents can move from one café table to another and talk with others through multiple rounds of conversations.
We act as Peer Hosts to help facilitate the Café and encourage sharing. We also role model grounding activities to assist with building resilience.
Although the Café this is for the parents, we have included a separate space for the kids and provide different activities for the older youth and younger kids while the parents are in the Parent Café.
We provide dinner for the families and they give us ideas for the menu, and we have different themes and activities each month. Although kids and parents have separate activities, they also have family time over a meal. As a team we support Parent Café with prepping for activities, shopping, cleaning, cooking, and we alsos provide child care and transportation.
Feedback from parents
Parents have shared that they enjoy coming to Parent Café due to feeling safe and not being judged. Parents are able to build support and network with each other due to similar struggles in their own life. Parents have expressed that the support they receive during the Parent Café helps alleviate feelings of being alone. Parents encourage and empower each other during Parent Café and as well as in the community outside of the group.
We have learned so much from our families and how to best support their needs. Providing Parent Cafés has been a rewarding experience for both of us and we look forward each month to the next one!