United Parents Cafés

Strengthening parents → Strengthening families → Strengthening Communities
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Why are Parent Cafés needed?
In hundreds of meetings throughout the greater Milwaukee area, Common Ground has heard about the struggles of families overwhelmed by the stresses in their lives. Parents report feeling isolated and not knowing where to turn for help.

In addition, Common Ground’s conversations with educators have revealed a desire to meaningfully engage parents and to respectfully teach parenting skills. However, despite the efforts of educators, levels of parent engagement remain low at many schools in the greater Milwaukee area. Several studies show a positive link between parent engagement and higher academic achievement as well as better student behavior.

What are Parent Cafés?
Originally developed by Chicago-based nonprofit, Be Strong Families, Parent Cafés use the collaborative World Café process to teach the five Protective Factors. The Protective Factors were identified by the Center for the Study of Social Policy as the attributes necessary for families to thrive. As the Protective Factors increase, abuse and neglect diminish and child development soars.

The Parent Café experience includes:
● An introduction to the Protective Factors
● Café agreements – so the experience feels safe and respectful for all
● A one-to-one conversation and debrief
● Two or three 15-20 minute, small-group conversations hosted by a trained parent
● Deep self-reflection
● Personal commitment letter
● Whole group debrief — harvest of wisdom & insights
The magic of the Café is peer-to-peer learning and deep reflection; there are no “experts” telling parents what they should or should not do.

Are Parent Cafés effective?
Hundreds of Parent Cafés have been carried out in Illinois, and the feedback from over 4,000 participants has been excellent. 99% of participants felt the Café was “helpful.” 98% would recommend Parent Cafés to friends and family. 97% plan to attend another Café in the future.
Furthermore, research shows that Parent Cafés:
-Reduce stress / increase peace and well-being
-Increase parenting knowledge and skills
-Build protective factors
-Facilitate meaningful relationships and bonding / community building
-Provide opportunities for parent leadership

Strengthening the Community
By teaching the protective factors, building relationships, and encouraging deep self-reflection, Parent Cafés strengthen individual parents, their families and their institutions. United Parents leaders envision going further and helping parents strengthen their communities. In a nutshell United Parents Cafés will help parents build their capacity to deal with stress and help parents join together to improve the conditions in their community that are putting stress on their families.

United Parents’ Role
Seeing the need for Parent Cafés and the limited number that are available, Common Ground leaders formed a United Parents team to work on making Parent Cafés more widely available in the greater Milwaukee area. There are hundreds of organizations and thousands of parents that could benefit from participating in United Parents Cafés.

The United Parents’ Team has attended a number of Parent Cafés and learned the process. To date they have conducted over 10 cafés and have received requests to conduct many more.

In order to make more Parent Cafés available, United Parents seeks to raise $450,000 over three years as seed money to pay for a full-time staff person, administrative support, and expenses. After three years, it is expected that United Parents Cafés will be funded by the annual contributions of individuals and participating organizations.

For more information on United Parents or the Cafés, please contact Jennifer O’Hear.
jennifer.ohear@commongroundwi.org