Parents Forum’s vision is a network of communities providing access to the resources we need to do the best we can at the most important job in the world: raising children. Our mission is to foster caring, honest and respectful communications in families. We do this by helping parents and their allies develop emotional awareness, in workshops – organized in schools and other settings -- and individually. Parents Forum workshops model and teach effective communication skills and, in doing so, promote social and emotional learning. Our goals are to be more responsible in our families and more involved in our communities, as we learn to work through the conflicts and strong feelings that arise in family and community life. We see parenting education as a cornerstone of both economic and social development. A focus on children in many education and public health efforts has led to parenting education, especially engagement of fathers, remaining largely unrecognized.
From the start our aim has been to create a new social institution. Scouting and Rotary, once innovations, are now integral to communities around the world. We see Parents Forum, similarly, establishing parenting education as a global and local resource, with our curriculum as its cornerstone. The program’s 1993 application to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service said: "Most incidents of abuse and neglect of children occur within the family setting. We expect our program to help ameliorate existing abusive situations and more importantly to help parents avoid negative or destructive parenting practices that could eventually harm their children.” Children are our future and we must make parenting our focus in order to assure their well being.
HOW THE OBJECTIVES WERE ACHIEVED
Publication of ‘our call’ for universal parenting education in 11 languages in 2013 was a major step towards our goal and resulted in the Soweto-Cambridge connections described in this Drum Beat article: Sophia and Eve’s story (The Drum Beat) ‘The Children, Equity Network’ A Chance Connection Becomes a Bond: http://bit.ly/1WMTRHk
The nominee has written for Huffington Post:
'Our call to the UN Solutions Summit' October 2015 http://huff.to/1OkEG1K
‘Empowering Families – parenting education is essential April 2014 http://huff.to/1mRZIIS
Her activities, supported by countless others, include participation in international conferences, UN NGO committees and other international entities, writing and speaking. These have been the primary means of achieving our objective. She is, at the same time, committed to the personal work of supporting parenting: http://www.aging.ohio.gov/news/halloffame/#sullivan and http://encore.org/story/eve-sullivan
Our basic innovation is making peer support central. It is part of most social programs - think team-building on the positive side and substance abuse recovery programs on the reparative side - but most parenting programs rely on social workers or other counseling professionals to facilitate. Parents Forum is peer-led. Since people now expect information to be free, we will, with a $1000 grant from a Boston-area bank, just awarded, redesign our website to make our curriculum freely available, after registration, to schools and agencies serving parents.
We want to conduct research on our community-based approach and expect to be able both to build on the impact we have had and to address the challenges we face, described below.
In the nearly 25 years since Parents Forum was founded, it has received positive feedback from hundreds of parents in Greater Boston and beyond. Our handbook Where the Heart Listens (in print, e book and audio), has reached many more. It is being translated into Arabic and Chinese. The program’s one-page ‘Tools of the Trade’ is freely available in five languages, with two other translations to be posted soon.
Parents at libraries, pre-school, grammar and high school and university and in prison have all said that they have benefitted from our approach. Small grants and modest earned income have provided us with financial support.
While our impact just begins to approach that needed globally, the effort is well underway. We see the tide turning in favor of universal parenting education. Most recently (10-JAN-2016) UK Prime Minister David Cameron announced a new ‘Life Chances Strategy’ to significantly expand parenting program provision. bit.ly/1mNNe73
We are ready to ride this wave.
First, because conception and childbirth are natural processes, parenting is expected to ‘come naturally.’ Parents who need or want support are blamed by others, or blame themselves, for having made serious mistakes or for having personal deficits. Parents Forum seeks to sidestep this crippling stigma. Normalizing parenting education will move us toward our common goal: the wellbeing and life success of all children.
Second, fragmentation in parenting education discourages participation. Self-pay programs and counseling are often available for the well-to-do. Social service programs are sometimes provided for the poor. Middle-class parents find themselves unable to pay for pricey professional help and unable to qualify for subsidized help.
Third, parent’s at all socio-economic levels experience pressures that keep them from fulfilling their family roles.
Last, natural human competitiveness discourages honest exchange of experiences.
Parent peer support addresses all these challenges.
I am relatively new to the campaign, but the nominee writes: If nothing else, in nearly 25 years, we have learned that this work is difficult! We face a ‘chicken-and-egg’ dilemma, as do other parenting programs: needing people to attend our programs and, at the same time, struggling to provide programs for people to attend.”
Our founder Eve Sullivan, the nominee, has invested many hours and dollars to bring the campaign to its present point. She continues work on a literature search to back up a proposed research project on Parents Forum and on a logic model to engage partners interested in funding and implementing the research.
Recognition by the Nelson Mandela Graça Machel Award would bring tremendous opportunities to expand the reach of Parents Forum and embed parenting education in social and economic development policy at local, regional, national and international levels, as well as bring it to wider acceptance by parents around the globe.
Cambridge, Massachusetts USA