November 22, 2013

Helping Parents Be Parents

It's 9 a.m. - do you know where your parents are? Hopefully at one of the Parent Café sites introduced to the East Oakland community by First 5 Alameda County and California Project LAUNCH, and administered by Oakland Parents Together.

The Parent Café program is a family strengthening and parent engagement program that has been extremely well received by the community, both among participants and the agencies involved. Parent Cafés are built around a set of structured conversations on issues important to parents: How can you help your son or daughter develop his/her potential?  What makes it hard to express love to your child? What do you do that you don't want your children to do - and why?" are just some of the many topics discussed.Some sessions are built around the six protective factors of the Strengthening Families framework, with evaluations showing that many of the cafés are doing exactly that - strengthening families! 

"I just feel at peace when I'm here"

 Parent Cafés bring together parents, guardians and caregivers in a safe, supervised setting where core skills of listening without interrupting, sharing without judgment and mutual support of fellow community members facing similar challenges as parents are encouraged and promoted. As many as 35 people participate in the weekly, two-hour sessions that culminate in six weeks with a program evaluation and certificate awarded to each participant. Survey results to date indicate positive changes in the areas of reducing isolation and building community, improving communication skills and family relationships, increasing parenting confidence and resilience, increased cross-cultural communications, volunteerism, parent leadership skills and many other critical areas.  As one prospective parent said about the Parent Café he attended before he became a father, "I'm getting a lot of wisdom from a lot and lot of parents for what I'll be expected to do as a father. I just feel at peace when I'm here."


"It helps me take care of my children better"

Seven separate Parent Café series were held during the 2011-12 school year, and another seven series were held during the 2012-2013 school year. Among the programs this year was a six week series at Markham Elementary School on Krause Avenue off 73rd Avenue in E. Oakland, where approximately 35 people enthusiastically brought their Parent Café to a close on a recent Tuesday morning while Oakland Parents Together provided child care in a nearby classroom. Asked why do you attend the Parent Café? "To learn how to respond to other people's feelings," another father responded. "To not feel alone as a parent," a mother said. "To learn how to take care of my children better," another mother said.  That's good stuff. 

To hear directly about Parent Cafés from participants, click here:

For more information about Parent Cafés contact Henry Hitz, Executive Director, Oakland Parents Together at