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Iowa State University Extension

Don’t ‘fix’ families; partner with parents

Partnering with Parents

You don’t just “fix” a family. That’s what Kim Greder and other ISU Extension specialists teach in Partnering with Parents, an educational outreach academy for professionals who work with parents. As these professionals learn to be family-centered in their work, “they walk away with a much bigger concept of what parenting education is about,” Greder said. Those who are new to the field as well as seasoned veterans report that Partnering with Parents makes a difference in how they work with families.

“First you have to take time to get to know the family and build a relationship,” Greder said. “You need to listen before you jump in and start giving out parenting information.” How you work with families is as important as what you teach them.

Partnering with Parents helps professionals understand their own values, beliefs and goals of parenting and how their own perspectives affect the way they interact with parents. A wide range of parenting education professionals has taken the course over the past seven years, from early childhood and family service professionals to teachers, school counselors, ministers and social workers.

“This summer we had our 500th registered participant,” Greder noted. About two-thirds of the participants have taken the course face-to-face; the other third has taken it online. Some take the course as professional development, while others seek undergraduate or graduate credit, teacher renewal credit or social work hours.

They gain practical information and tools — from cultural perspectives on parenting to financial stability and family well-being — that they immediately can use in their daily work with parents.

“Learners tell us Partnering with Parents works,” Greder continued. Self-assessment data show a significant increase in participants’ knowledge and skills after the program compared with before participation. The positive results are the same, whether the course was taken face-to-face or online.

Now Greder is documenting the evidence, comparing those who have completed the program with others who have not participated to test the effectiveness of the program. The research should be complete later this fall.

The next Partnering with Parents course offering begins in January 2009, with face-to-face courses in Fort Dodge and Council Bluffs, as well as an online option. Scholarships are available through the Iowa Department of Human Rights. For more information, check the Partnering with Parents Web site.

This article appeared in September 2008 -- From Jack Payne Newsletter