The Early Childhood Resource Center (ECRC) is bringing needed resources to at-risk neighborhoods by offering parent cafés throughout the Canton community as part of a national child abuse prevention strategy called Strengthening Families.
Last October, the ECRC contracted with Be Strong Families, a subsidiary of Strengthening Families, to train 25 community members to facilitate parent cafés. The Ohio Children’s Trust Fund has funded six parent café sites in Stark County, with sessions offered at four Canton City elementary schools and at Head Start programs in Massillon and Alliance.
Parent cafés are a series of structured small group conversations that bring parents together to directly engage diverse perspectives. Strengthening Families focuses on keeping children safe by helping their parents develop a number of protective factors that prevent abuse, such as parental resilience, social connections, knowledge of parenting and child development, and concrete support in times of need.
The conversation and collaboration that occur at the sessions, along with the relationship building and empathy that develop within the structured small group format, are highly effective. In a study of more than 4,000 parent participants, parent cafés were found to reduce stress, increase protective factors, increase peace and well-being, increase parenting knowledge and skills, and facilitate meaningful relationships and community building. More than 85 percent of the participants studied reported an increased awareness/knowledge of the protective factors as a result of their participation.
Each session typically serves between 12 and 20 participants, with no more than five parents per table. Sessions are led and facilitated by hosts who pose parenting questions and scenarios to the group. Once the questions are adequately addressed, the parents move to a different table to join in a conversation about another topic. This rotation continues throughout the two-hour session.
Read more about the ECRC and its many programs designed to strengthen early childhood experiences in the recent issue of the “ECRC Community Chronicle” newsletter.
The Early Childhood Resource Center is a ministry of the Sisters of Charity Health System.