The Whole Child Initiative is gearing up to launch an exciting new program this summer called Parent Café’s. Be Strong Families, a Chicago-based nonprofit that is internationally known for teaching the Parent Café model, came to Rochester in April to train the WCI backbone team, as well as Systems Partners that will host Café’s in the Rochester area starting this summer.

Parent Cafés are structured, small group conversations that facilitate transformation and healing within families, build communities, develop peer-to-peer relationships, and engage parents as partners in the programs that serve them. Parent Cafés are physically and emotionally safe spaces where parents and caregivers talk about their challenges, strategies and successes.

Attendees included Whole Child Initiative (WCI) Parent/Family Partners (PFPs) and partners from BIPOC PEEEEEK, Bivona Childhood Advocacy Center, the Children’s Institute, Greater New York Revitalization, the Healthi Kids Coalition, Project LAUNCH, Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative (RMAPI), and the Young Child Wellness Council.

Two Days of Training, One Powerful Experience

The two day, 16-hour training program began on Saturday, April 22nd with an intro and overview by Tiffany Murphy, Training and Technical Assistance Provider for Be Strong Families. In her opening remarks, she stressed the importance of participants leaving their job titles and professional roles “at the door,” because the only title that matters in a Parent Café is the role of parent.

Attendees reviewed and accepted a set of “Agreements” (such as speak from your own experience, do not interrupt, use “I” statements, and do not give advice), which provide structure and set the tone for the work ahead.

Next, Tarcisio Ornelas-Gomez, Senior Bilingual Training and Technical Assistance Provider, took the group through its first Parent Café. Only two of the 20-plus participants had participated in a Parent Café before, so it was a completely new experience for almost everyone in the room.

Every Parent Café has a theme, and “Taking Care of Yourself” was the focus for Saturday morning. Attendees broke out into four groups and had in-depth conversations about the Five Protective Factors that enable parents to take care of themselves:

  • Resilience – Be strong and flexible.
  • Relationships – Parents need friends.
  • Knowledge – Being a great parent is part natural, part learned.
  • Concrete Support – Everybody needs help sometimes.
  • Communication – Parents need to help their kids communicate.

The discussions were deep, personal and transformative, which is exactly what Parent Cafés are supposed to be.

On Sunday, the group participated in two more practice sessions, following the same format as Saturday. Sunday morning’s theme was “Pulling Weeds and Planting Seeds” and Sunday afternoon’s was “Together We Can, Together We Will.”

Excellent Feedback from Attendees

The training was highly interactive, allowing plenty of time for attendees to ask questions to understand why Parent Cafés are structured the way they are. And it was very well received by attendees. Here’s some of their feedback.

“It made me reflect a lot on my parenting skills and family relationships. Now I want to do Parent Cafés at home.” Julio Cruz, Parent/Family Partner

“It was much needed. Transformative.” Lynn Lubecki, Children’s Institute

“We created a safe space for parents to share. It’s important to have peer-to-peer support.”
Sara White-Smith, Whole Child Initiative

“It was interactive from start to finish, not boring at all.” Toyin  Anderson, Parent/Family Partner

“We all had our parent hats on, first and foremost.” Tina Carney, Parent/Family Partner

“I didn’t expect that we would go so deep on who we are as individuals. I connected with people on a totally different level. I planned to stay for a couple of hours and ended up staying for the whole two days.” Willie Robinson, ROC the Future Alliance

Rolling Out Parent Cafés in Rochester

Participants in the training program are now certified Parent Café Hosts. We are now equipped to host our first Parent Cafés for the Rochester community by summer. Our goal is to host more than 100 local parents over the summer and many more by the end of the year.

We are thrilled to bring this incredible experience to Rochester, which Be Strong Families has rolled out in 42 states plus the Virgin Islands, Guam, the UK, Philippines, and Africa. The Whole Child Initiative will use what we learn from Parent Café participants to shape our strategic priorities for 2023 and beyond.

Registration is now open for the July Parent Café.