Parent Leadership

Kids Thrive When Parents Lead
A safe walking trail in a low-income neighborhood, a vacant lot transformed to a community park, a private area for breastfeeding—all spearheaded by parents. When parents are engaged partners in decision-making, kids, families and communities thrive. That’s a guiding theme behind our work at First 5 Ventura County. And that’s why we’re collaborating to help parents gain the knowledge, skills and confidence to sit alongside decision-makers as a voice for children and families.

Parent Leaders & Agencies Face Barriers
Yet shared leadership is not so easy. Parents face barriers like language, confidence, education, and unfamiliar decision-making processes. Agencies may not be prepared to address these barriers. While our project focus initially on parents, we realized that both parent-leader and organizational capacity are essential for successful parent leadership.

Local Solutions Emerge Collectively
Recognizing these challenges, First 5 Ventura County and a cadre of local agencies serving families came together to build a parent leadership training model. With collective resources and lots of volunteer time, the group developed and hosted a seven-session series inspired by the Five Protective Factors Framework. Childcare, food, simultaneous translation and a small stipend helped to make participation possible, while mothers and fathers explored communication skills, board leadership, father engagement, advocacy and more. Each session was lead by a parent/agency dyad reflecting the perspectives of that duo. Twenty-five parents completed the training and feedback was overwhelmingly positive.

“It gave me the courage to try and get speed bumps in my neighborhood,” a participant shared, echoing a host of inspired comments. “I don’t let my small children play outside for fear that they will get run over.”

Ventura County parents, we discovered, wanted to be involved and craved leadership development. We had a waiting list of future participants. After our 25 graduates completed the sessions, they were eager to do more.

Collaboration can be Messy
For the pilot run, First 5 Ventura County funded direct expenses and provided temporary staff support. Other partners provided significant in-kind contributions, including consultant time, materials and space. The energy and enthusiasm generated by disparate agencies building a program together was palpable. Yet collective implementation was logistically complex, programmatically limiting and simply not sustainable. We soon realized that we needed established staff support, infrastructure and dependable funding to take this work to the next level. When Parent Services Project (PSP) asked us to host a State-funded parent leadership model in Ventura County, we were ready with collaborative structure, experience and a list of waiting parents.

Six months later, F5VC and the Parent Leadership Collaborative have wrapped up a second training series for 20 additional parents. This time we received funding, curriculum and instruction from PSP with the promise that we replicate the model locally. A packaged curriculum and streamlined funding allowed us to weave in greater consistency, structure—and sustainability through PSP’s train-the-trainer model.

Parent Leadership Today
The future brings exciting opportunities as we explore opportunities to weave together elements of our homegrown model and the PSP framework. We envision a parent network that brings together graduates from parents leadership programs across Ventura County for continued learning and leadership, as well as parents in other leadership roles.

In recent collaboration efforts with First 5 Alamenda County and the Center for the Study of Social Policy, First 5 Ventura County contributed to a robust toolkit “Ripples of Transformation: Families Leading Change in Early Childhood Systems” designed to inspire, challenge, and support leaders in early childhood systems.

First 5 Ventura County recognizes that this work has the greatest impact when approached collectively. As shared leadership becomes the norm in Ventura County and beyond, many of us can, and will, continue to play an essential role guiding and nurturing its development.

For additional information, please contact us.