Imperative #2 Support parents and caregivers as children's first teachers and champions
Summary: Family plays a unique and critical role in a young child's life. Parents and caregivers are children's first teachers and champions, so ensuring they have access to resources that help them promote emotional, health, and educational development from birth is key. However, they often face barriers that interfere with their ability to give their children a healthy start.
Detroit's extreme poverty rates, among the highest of American cities, force parents to focus on their basic needs, such as housing and food security. These barriers often prevent parents from ensuring their students enter school ready to learn. This is reflected in the fact that 14% of Detroit Students read at grade level by 3rd grade and that Detroit leads the nation in chronic absenteeism with 58% of the city's students chronically absent (10) (11). The most effective way to close these gaps is to support Detroit parents from birth. Any attempt to address these inequities must begin with addressing this need for economic security, but also focus on generating awareness of the importance and availability of Early Childhood Programming that are too often seen as optional or inaccessible. Partnering with outreach programs, such as home visits, could lead to effective outcomes for parents and students alike. Targeting parents and families, through specific community-led programs that generate awareness, and provide opportunities for interaction offer a tremendous opportunity to impact the families and the future of the city.
Community parent groups such as Sisterfriends, and the variety of local organizations that administer responsible parenting programming in the city, are well engaged with this work. These organizations offer direct programming while groups like the Great Start Collaborative track and serve as a hub for local events and opportunities geared towards engaging parents. (9) Developing awareness of and programming for parents will work hand in hand with many of the direct HSH policy priorities by generating awareness of new opportunities for government benefits, such as an expanded EITC, and allowing families to have more time to participate in targeted programming, through the increased opportunity for paid leave and economic security that the HSH priorities promote
Croatia- in a program called designed and support by researchers on behalf of UNICEF. Experts worked with groups of 10-12 parents in a series of 10 workshops designed to promote parent and child engagement and communication. Surveys and expert evaluations showed marked progress compared to the control group following this intervention. In particular, researchers note "Those results of the comparison of parental beliefs before and after the Workshop Programme indicate that they shift toward a stronger acceptance of the child and parental actions that respect the child's dignity and recognize the child as a person." (13).
Baltimore- Developing All Dads for Manhood and Parenting (DAD MAP) is a program run by the Baltimore Center for Urban Families and Temple University that uses culturally tailored programming aimed to impact low-income African American fathers with children under 12 years old (14). Specifically trained leaders lead biweekly meetings with participants for 8 weeks where participants engage in targeted activities and discussions. Randomized control trials of the program found that "that the DAD MAP curriculum is an effective way of promoting fatherhood engagement." (14). In particular, participants were more likely to spend time with and profess care for their children.
Oregon- The Oregon Parenting Education Collaborative (OPEC) is a state-wide initiative led by The Oregon Community Foundation (OCF), The Ford Family Foundation, and Oregon State University (OSU). The initiative specifically focused on highlighting relevant parental engagement programs "with a focus on programs reaching parents of children prenatal to age six" (15). The organization funds local parenting programs by utilizing regional hubs, that coordinate and disperse funding to community organizations that provide such programming. Evaluation of the collaborative work between 2010-2017 by Oregon State University found significant impacts including, increased participation in parental educational programming, increased parental and child skill measures for those who participated, and increased effectiveness and capacity among the local partners that OPEC supported (15).
Nationally- A team of researchers undertook a meta-analytic that analyzed 55 studies and independent reports evaluating the success of programs for low-income, unmarried, and non-resident fathers (16). Overall the team found that the programs had a small statistically significant impact on the engagement of fathers, with programs that used parenting education models having the greatest success (16). This study shows that these type of parent intervention programs have the potential to succeed but need to be specifically tailored to the needs of the targeted community (16).
Sector Partner Engagement
Detroit currently has several local organizations, ranging from the social work offices to local faith-based partners, that run programming following various responsible fatherhood model that can be accessed by those parents seeking guidance. Beyond these specific opportunities programs, other organizations run programs that promote parental engagement in Early childhood development. For example, the National Center for Family Learning runs programming in partnership with the United Way for Southeast Michigan, which includes both parent classes, child classes, and work with families as a whole. Parents showed increased engagement in their children's school and personal lives and children's academic and attendance outcomes improved greatly (11). Current community organizations such as Sisterfriends Detroit, are run through the Detroit Health Department as serve as community networks for parents to connect to local resources, opportunities, and one another. Other local organizations advocate for policy that promotes parental involvement, in particular, the Great Start Collaborative tracks and maintains reliable data and maintains and stores information on early childhood events and resources (9).