Recommendations for Parent Participation

Because so many public health issues affect young people there will be times when children are the "community" or population you would like to engage. It is not always easy or appropriate to connect with children directly. You may find it necessary and helpful to begin by engaging their parents.

Parents are frequently invited and expected to participate in matters involving their children. As a result, they are asked to participate in many programs and projects, often more than they have time for. To address this issue parents serving on the STATES Initiative Core Planning Team came up with the following set of recommendations for seeking their involvement in your community engagement initiative.

Why do you need parent involvement?

Assessment of need: Ask yourself the following questions before inviting parents to participate:

1. Why have you determined parents must/should be involved with your work?

Internal assessment questions:

  • Does your funding depend on it?
  • Are you mandated to have parent involvement?
  • Do you want to move towards a more inclusive process of shared decision making?
  • Do you believe having parents at the table will keep you more focused on the outcomes of your programs?
  • Do you understand “Family Support”?
  • Are you able to incorporate strategies to engage parents in meaningful ways?

2. What is the composition of your group and what perspective do you expect parents to bring?

Internal assessment questions:

  • Who is the parent representing, (i.e., a geographic area, economic status, ethnic culture, self, a program, disability, gender)?
  • How many parents can your group recruit and sustain?

3. What expectations do you have for parent representatives to exchange information with their constituents or community?

Internal assessment questions:

  • Have you recognized ways you can enhance parent’s leadership skills by providing opportunities to exchange information with different groups?
  • Have you provided a roles and responsibility inservice with the parent?
  • Have you matched the parent with a mentor from the organization?
  • Have you created ways parents can meet other parents involved?

Defined by the Family Resource Coalition of America, and Minnesota STATES Initiative.

How can you reduce barriers to involvement?

Sometimes getting people to participate is difficult, even if they care deeply about the issue. This can be especially true for parents. They may want to participate, but face many barriers they keep them from getting involved. When working to involve parents you should consider and work to addres the following potential barriers.

  • Staff time to make logistical arrangements and build relationships with parents
  • Child care/short and long term
  • Transportation/local and out of state
  • Food
  • Mileage
  • Honorarium/stipend/per-diem
  • Lodging/local and out of state

Many of these barriers can be address by providing financial support to families for their participation. The following items are especially important to consider providing financial support for any out-of-pocket expenses, such as:

  • Child care on site or reimbursed
  • Transportation/mileage
  • Food and parking the day of the meetings
  • Lodging (when necessary)

Additional considerations as your budget allows:

  • A parent per-diem for miscellaneous expenses.
  • A honorarium (e.g., a thank you gift for their time).
  • Reimbursement for work on sub-committees.

Adapted from: Family Support America and the Minnesota STATES Initiative.