How Circle of Fathers Helps Me

How Circle of Fathers Helps Me

To achieve our mission to strengthen families, organizations and communities to prevent child maltreatment, Illuminate Colorado is focused on growing Circle of Parents® in Colorado.

This national, evidence-informed model provides a friendly, supportive environment led by parents and other caregivers. Circle groups give anyone in a parenting role a place to openly discuss the successes and challenges of raising children, free from judgment. Growing Circles of Fathers around the state is particularly important to our work. We asked one father to share why his group is important to him and his family.

Read Dave’s Circle of Parents Story . . . 

One of the most beautiful gifts on this planet is to be a parent. Parenting comes with beautiful moments and also challenges. It’s the latter that we learn the most about ourselves and our kids.

As a father, it took me some time to, first, admit that I needed help and then more courage to reach out and say “I need help”. I want to share with other parents that even though this gesture sounds simple, it’s important to know I had to overcome how I was raised and my perception of what being a father meant to me to make that connection. It seems so silly now because once I asked the help came flooding, and I mean FLOODING in!

There have been several organizations and groups that have helped me over the years, but my Circle of Fathers group has been the most important to me and continues to be. I could write for some time about everything the group contributes to my life, but I want to highlight the impact it has had on my ability to support my son’s education. You see, I, like many parents, have needed to play a big part in homeschooling my son. 

As I continue to raise my son, I watch as his ability to learn grows every day. Honestly, I have no idea what his capacity is yet because it seems to be boundless. I see so many educational opportunities I can incorporate into my son’s life. One of the fathers shared online classes with me and my son loves to do them every week! It’s funny that a small mention of an activity that works at home for one parent can have such a big impact on another child’s life.

My local Circle of Fathers group is strengthening my family every time I connect, which is often. In addition to attending meetings online and in person,  checking on our Circle of Fathers Facebook Group posts are now a daily part of my life. The ideas I get from our diverse group of parents have helped me expand my fathering skills and I love it! Every post I read relating to topics my son and I are facing is so inventive, and the tips and tricks that I get from other parents are really ingenious.

I want to thank every parent who takes the time to understand what Circle of Parents means to all the parents getting support in this way. It’s inspirational and a beautiful gift that parenting is connected to countless others who love raising little ones!

I encourage other parents and caregivers to connect and find their Circle.

About the Author

About the Author

Dave is a proud father to his nine year-old son living in Colorado Springs. He has a deep understanding of what needs to happen at a community level in order to transform systems so that families get the preventative support they need, having experienced homelessness and spends his time helping other fathers make progress in their lives in order to attain greater fulfillment.

How Circle of Fathers Helps Me

One Father’s Journey Through Parenthood with Community Resources

I never thought I would ever become homeless until it happened. A number of events led me to a point in my life where I needed to find a temporary home so that I could start working to rebuild my life from the ground up and continue to support my basic needs and be there for my son. I want to share and highlight a few community support programs that have had a big impact on my life and that of my son’s because I know that it is so important to breakdown the stigma of getting support as a parent. But first, I want to tell you about my son.

I am a father to a 9 year-old boy who has has the funniest sense of humor. He has this awesome joy inside of him that marvels over the simplest things, like a dollar store toy, a plastic device that makes snowballs or even a pack of gum. And, through his wonderment of these things he teaches me that life doesn’t have to be so complex and I too can enjoy the simple moments. My son and I have an amazingly strong relationship built on trust, love and the ability to learn and grow…together. I am honored and privileged to be a father.

But, parenting isn’t always easy. There’s no book to follow on how to be a perfect parent and it can be difficult at times. The good news is there’s so many resources in all of our communities that are reaching out to us to provide services, programs and support as we navigate our parental journey. These are just a few of the community organizations that have made an impact on my family in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Springs Rescue Mission

It was late in the year and it started to get cold outside. I had exhausted all other resources and had to find housing very quickly. As I entered the shelter at Springs Rescue Mission for the very first time, I was greeted with open arms and care. Immediately, I had a bed and began to learn what resources were available to me.

The caregivers at Springs Rescue Mission were amazing at connecting me to everything I needed. I had some medical issues and was put into contact with a doctor within days. I was shown where to get food at a number of locations. As you might imagine, my stress and anxiety levels were high and I was quickly connected to a provider to manage my mental health. When it came to generating income, Springs Rescue Mission was able to provide me with electricity and internet access so that I could continue to support the remote clients that I had. They also had jobs posted every week and clinics available for resume building and interviewing skills.

When times were difficult, I could reach out and talk to any of the shelter employees and they listened to me as we talked through issues that affected me as a parent. I can’t thank Springs Rescue Mission enough for supporting my basic needs, connecting me to all the resources I needed, and for helping me get back on my feet. This is just one shelter among many that provide a roof, food, and hands to help guide us back upwards.

Circle of Parents

The Circle of Parents® in Colorado is an online and in-person weekly meeting where parents come together, share thoughts, ideas and problems. In return, those in the group receive advice and resources to help make parenting a little easier. It’s a collection of parents needing help and through the bonds that are built… grow stronger, together. You learn very quickly in groups like these that you are never alone and help is just an email, text or phone call away.

For me, each week connects me to other fathers that are knowledgeable about local parent/child events and educational opportunities like parenting books, articles, or websites. It’s a safe place to share challenges and success stories and bond with other fathers.

Center on Fathering

Although there are many more organizations I could share, I do want to mention just one more; the Center on Fathering which has been a bedrock of support to strengthen our role as parents through parenting classes, support groups and access to educational materials.

I reached out to community organizations for help and it’s made me a better parent. If I can leave you with just one message today, it would be this…  it’s OK for parents to ask for support. We all need it. We all need to connect with one another—as parents—to share the information, resources, tips and tricks that we learn along the way.

Build Concrete Support in Times of Need

When families are connected and have access to concrete supports in their community that help minimize stress caused by challenges, we strengthen the foundation for families and communities to thrive. ​This is what child abuse prevention looks like in my life. Together, we can become the best parents we can be. For fathers, it feels especially difficult for us to reach out to one another to connect as parents and get support. This is the pledge I make to myself, to continue to connect and I’m sharing my story to grow a better tomorrow for all children, together. 

About the Author

About the Author

Dave is a proud father to his nine year-old son living in Colorado Springs. He has a deep understanding of what needs to happen at a community level in order to transform systems so that families get the preventative support they need, having experienced homelessness and spends his time helping other fathers make progress in their lives in order to attain greater fulfillment.

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How to Develop and Foster Parent Leadership

How to Develop and Foster Parent Leadership

Last week, we published Meaningful Parent Leadership and Why It Matters, a blog by Candice Bataille discussing the importance of parent leadership and how it fits into Circle of Parents. In this blog, Candice shares how to develop parent leaders within the Circle of Parents program model.

Including parents and families in the overall governance of your Circle of Parents group is crucial to building and sustaining the program. This approach is a fundamental shift away from how many child and family serving programs originally were designed and administered. They have often excluded parents and families from critical decision-making with regard to program development, delivery of services, ongoing operations and administration.

First and foremost, as facilitators, we are encouraged to accept and relate to parents as leaders when they join the program. It’s true that many parents may appear shy and reserved at first. Creating a safe environment, keeping confidentiality, building trust, providing training and assigning small responsibilities can assist in starting to increase their own self-identity and capacity to take on leadership roles. To truly enhance the impact of Circle of Parents, both the facilitator and site team must relinquish some control to parents and recognize them as equal partners in determining what works for families within the framework for the particular group.

Parent Leadership Occurs In Numerous Ways

Parents can become leaders by taking on various roles in planning, implementing, leading meetings, fundraising, helping to set up logistics and foods, writing articles or assisting with data for Circle of Parents. In any particular Circle group, there may be several parent leaders that emerge. By taking a strengths-based approach and understanding their strengths and likes, the facilitator may assign different responsibilities to different parent leaders within a given group.

Possible Roles & Specific Activities

1) Organizational

  • write articles or blogs for the Circle of Parents network in coordination with Illuminate Colorado
  • be a part of host agency grant-making boards or committees
  • be a part of host site agency advisory boards or councils

2) Evaluation

  • gather data
  • keep attendance
  • help to distribute and gather surveys

3) Administrative

  • help promote and recruit other families in the community
  • write and review written and audiovisual materials
  • fundraising, help plan small events, or share a testimonial at a fundraising event

As more facilitators and host site professional staff see parents as contributors and communicators, more opportunities will unfold for parents to become involved and assume leadership roles. Engaging with parents and allowing them to provide direction and guidance is critical to making the Circle of Parents program more effective.

Illuminate Colorado is home to the Colorado state chapter of Circle of Parents. Visit the Circle of Parents webpage to learn more about the program and to find a group that’s right for you.

Meaningful Parental Leadership and Why It Matters

Meaningful Parental Leadership and Why It Matters

It’s hard to believe, but it’s already the beginning of February. And that means it’s officially Parent Leadership Month. It’s a time designed to highlight the opportunities and engage in partnerships that support strong and lasting roles for parents as leaders. One of those opportunities, Circle of Parents, is a great way for parents to take on leadership roles in Colorado. But what exactly are parent leaders? And how do they fit into the Circle of Parents model?

A parent leader is someone who represents the needs and perspectives of many parents without speaking or acting in a staff role for an organization or institution. Parents become leaders when they actively participate in the development and successful implementation of services to help them in their parenting roles and as leaders of their own families. And using their experiences as participants, coupled with a desire to “give back,” parent leaders build upon the knowledge and skills they gained to take on meaningful leadership roles within programs.

Within the Circle of Parents model, when a parent practices their leadership skills, not only does it help strengthen the group, but it also supports the parent leader in building their own self-esteem and their sense of self. This increases their capacity to relate more positively to others, it assists them in setting and accomplishing goals, generates a sense of hope, and strengthens their relationship with their own children, spouse or partner and family.

A Parent Leader:

  • may be a parent, grandparent, kinship care provider, foster parent, or anyone else in a parenting role.
  • has personal experience in using resources and/or services to strengthen their family.
  • is speaking and acting from their perspective as a parent.
  • is not speaking and acting in a staff role for an organization or institution.

Parent Leaders can be most effective when the following supports provide a strong foundation for their work:

  • a defined meaningful role as a Parent Leader
  • access to training
  • clear opportunities to contribute to program development, implementation, oversight and evaluation, policymaking, training and technical assistance, public awareness and outreach
  • tangible supports such as assistance with child care and transportation and compensation

Parent Leader Roles within Circle of Parents

The role of a parent leader is constantly evolving and there can be several parent leaders within one Circle of Parents group. Some specific roles a parent leader may assume are listed below.

Within Circle of Parents, parent leaders can:

  • take calls from prospective participants, introduce new participants during group meetings and events, and provide new participants with information about the program and resources.
  • take responsibility for the physical setting of the meeting or event, including securing the space, setting up the room, making sure resource materials are available for participants, and breaking the room down afterwards.
  • make participants feel welcome by greeting each parent who comes to an event.
  • start a group activity with icebreakers or other “get acquainted” activities.
  • end a group activity by summarizing what happened or setting dates or times for next steps.
  • make sure everyone has transportation to and from the meeting or special event.
  • take attendance and keep notes during meetings.
  • share responsibility for a children’s program or child care.

Illuminate Colorado is home to the Colorado state chapter of Circle of Parents. Visit the Circle of Parents webpage to learn more about the program and to find a group that’s right for you.

Hero’s Health Grant from CHC: Creating Healthier Communities Supports Fathers of Freedom in Colorado Springs

Hero’s Health Grant from CHC: Creating Healthier Communities Supports Fathers of Freedom in Colorado Springs

Today Creating Healthier Communities (CHC) announced Illuminate Colorado as one of four awardees of its Hero’s Health grant. The $10,000 grants, awarded to CHC nonprofit partners committed to serving active and retired military communities through program and service delivery that is focused on mental health or housing insecurity, will be used to create meaningful impact for America’s heroes and their families. The funding that Illuminate has been awarded will support Fathers of Freedom, one of 44 Circle of Parents groups meeting throughout Colorado. 

“CHC is pleased to support Illuminate Colorado’s efforts to improve the quality of life for our nation’s active military and veterans,” said Stacie Dennis, director of nonprofit engagement at CHC: Creating Healthier Communities. “Illuminate goes above and beyond for our armed forces population in this country and the Hero’s Health grant is just one way that CHC is investing in vital programs and services that make life better for our communities.”

Built around the foundations of mutual self-help, parent leadership, family support and increasing all five Protective Factors in families, Circle of Parents® groups strengthen families and prevent child maltreatment. Groups are parent-led and parent-driven and thus there is no curriculum – just a safe place for parents to share with each other and seek support and advice. Circles provide a friendly, supportive environment led by parents and other caregivers, where parents are the experts.  It’s a place where anyone in a parenting role can openly discuss the successes and challenges of raising children.  It’s a place where they can find and share support.

Parents with a social network of emotionally supportive friends, family, and neighbors often find that it is easier to care for their children and themselves. All parents need people they can call on once in a while when they need a sympathetic listener, advice or support. To help parents find that support in their lives, Illuminate Colorado is focused on growing Circle of Parents® in Colorado. 

“Illuminate Colorado is proud to serve as a nonprofit partner with CHC and delighted to receive a Hero’s Health grant as an award in recognition of our dedicated work of creating healthier communities for America’s military population, said Jade Woodard, executive director of Illuminate. “Our military veterans often need to recuperate from both apparent and invisible wounds after sacrificing and serving our country, so after they fight for us, we work attentively to support them. We are proud to support and empower these two military fathers in making such an extraordinary difference in their community; and thankful for their leadership which ensures that any veteran father in the Colorado Springs area can get together for dinner every Thursday at 5:00 pm.” 

When asked what their hopes are for 2022 with support from this generous gift, the Fathers of Freedom Circle of Parent facilitators shared:   

Personally, what I look most forward to about 2022 within our fathers groups is the opportunity to provide engaging activities for the families we serve, watching the confidence in our fathers grow and seeing the excitement in their children ignite. It’s important for us all to have support systems and feel connected, but that sentiment is much more pronounced with combat veterans, where the name of the game tends to be “isolation. We strive to provide a safe place where veterans can come to meet other fathers and speak openly about the struggles they may be facing internally  that could be putting a strain on their family life and their parenting. We want to give them the support and resources to help heal so they can be the best role-models for their children that they can be. And sometimes, that just comes down to listening.

Adam Combs

What I hope for in 2022 is that we are able to reach more fathers in our community and continue to bring them together with their families while providing healthy family events and support! I truly believe that when our military and veteran fathers are healing, their families are healing as well. We need each other just as we did in the military!

Adrian Nunez

CHC: Creating Healthier Communities, formerly Community Health Charities, is a catalyst for good health, bringing communities, nonprofits, and businesses together around a shared commitment to better health and wellbeing. The organization represents thousands of high-impact nonprofits nationwide, working to address barriers to good health and connecting them with capital from corporate, foundation and government partners to power transformative change. By listening to partners and convening community and business leaders, CHC aims to act in the best interests of communities, directing resources and expertise where it is needed most. For more information, visit chcimpact.org or @chcimpact.  Find more information and how to support CHC’s Hero’s Health cause here

 

Community Leadership Award Presentation & Fireside Chat with Adrian Nuñez and Adam Combs

Each year, Illuminate Colorado honors the contributions of exceptional individuals and organizations who have furthered our collective mission to strengthen families, organizations and communities to prevent child maltreatment.

WATCH THE VIDEO 
Illuminate Colorado Executive Director Jade Woodard talks with Community Leadership Award recipients and veterans, Adrian Nuñez and Adam Combs, about the work they are doing with Circle of Fathers and Fathers of Freedom in Colorado Springs.

November 11 @ 5:30 pm – 6:00 pm
Virtual Event

 

RSVP TO ENTER THE LIGHT THE WAY GIVEAWAY

Circle of Parents Is Not Just for the Parents

Circle of Parents Is Not Just for the Parents

Finding community can sometimes be difficult, especially in a rural setting. From getting answers to all your parenting questions to something as simple as finding a babysitter, it’s helpful to have a group of people you can go to for support. For one mother in Conifer, Colorado, finding that community has come through Circle of Parents.

Photo by Amy Johnson Photography

Jen Wilson was ecstatic when she first heard about Circle of Parents starting up in Conifer. Her kids had already been involved in early-childhood programming through Mountain Resource Center (MRC), so when it was announced that MRC would be hosting a Circle of Parents group for the community, she jumped at the chance to get connected to other parents in the area.

Through Circle of Parents, Wilson said she was able to find a group of like-minded parents. She also quickly realized how beneficial this group could be for her kids. “It became really important to me immediately and I saw the social emotional component of Circle and the work that those kids do in just playing with each other and being engaged. My son is on the autism spectrum…and we were really hoping to develop some of those social emotional skills, and Circle was actually a better place to do that than the school. It was worthwhile and everyone saw the value.”

Soon after joining Circle of Parents, MRC asked Wilson to be a parent lead and, when in-person meetings weren’t an option due to COVID-19, she began co-facilitating a virtual group. “Being able to go virtual has been critical,” said Wilson. “It helped to keep everyone in touch. It’s kept us feeling supported during a really weird year.” Throughout the pandemic, Wilson’s group was able to continue meeting to support each other, help each other out when needs arose, and figure out things like how to keep their kids socialized. More recently, the group has adopted a hybrid model, balancing Zoom calls with in-person meetings at local parks.

The newest expansion of Circle of Parents in Colorado, Children’s Circle, is something Wilson is thrilled about. Children’s Circle is a curriculum-based children’s program that builds the social-emotional skills of the children of caregivers and parents attending Circles, and Wilson sees this added component as the piece that’s been missing this past year for their group. The opportunity for parents and kids to have separate activities is really needed, she said. Wilson is excited about the opportunity to reach out to even more parents now and hopes that Children’s Circle will be an added draw for people in her community.

“It is a really great match for our community. It’s worth anybody looking into. Especially if you are in any way looking to make connections with other families, it’s a great place to start.”

– Jen Wilson

With the expansion of Circle of Parents to include Children’s Circle, the opportunity for Circle to make a holistic impact is growing, continuing to benefit both parents and children. When asked what she would say to anyone thinking about attending a Circle of Parents group, Wilson shared, “It is a really great match for our community. It’s worth anybody looking into. Especially if you are in any way looking to make connections with other families, it’s a great place to start.”

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