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.

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