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Parent Resource Centers

Detroit Parent Network’s Parent Resource Centers are located within eight public schools to provide support for parents. The centers help parents access basic human services for their families and provide tools and tips to engage parents in their children’s academic success. 
Michigan Nightlight: In your view, what makes this program innovative, effective or remarkable? 
Detroit Parent Network Director of External Affairs Tammie Jones: This program answers a call from parents across the city for localized support and access to help increase their involvement with their children's education. The 29,000 service visits this year alone confirm we listened well and have delivered.
The Parent Resource Centers are effective because they marry basic human service needs and supports with academic supports for parents, ensuring a holistic approach to working with families. Within these centers, parents and staff alike have adopted a "Failure is NOT an option" attitude, which has spawned a lot of creativity in the way they overcome barriers to learning.
In order to help parents support the education of their children at home during the summer months and holiday breaks, we developed Academic Toolkits that are available for check-out at any Parent Resource Center. Each kit supports specific academic concepts, and contains simple instructions to parents around how to engage their child in hands-on learning. These equip parents to be more effective teachers to their children.
Recognizing that homework can be as challenging for parents as their children, we have modeled the environment that is conducive to homework completion through our Homework Makeovers.  By entering families' homes and remaking a corner of a room, we have shown families how to quickly and easily create this environment by ensuring a sturdy worktable, good lighting, adequate supplies, and a quiet environment.
And knowing that parent leadership in schools can be challenging, we connect the leadership of schools' parent organizations at Team Leader Camps so that they can share best practices and collectively brainstorm about how to overcome barriers to parent engagement.
From the Academic Toolkits to the Homework Makeovers to the Team Leader Camps, our parents and staff have spent a tremendous amount of time thinking about how to engage, support, and lift up parent voice on behalf of their children while
The hardest lesson learned, which is not new but frequently resurfaces in this work, is that far too often the best interests of children are overshadowed by adult interests.
having fun. We love the work and coming up with the next big idea.
What was the best lesson learned in the past year?
Each year, we uncover new depths of commitment, innovation, and talent from our parent leaders. Too often, schools create barriers to parent involvement -- whether by limiting the means through which a parent can offer volunteer service, creating an environment that makes them feel unwelcome, or failing to fully listen as parents share their concerns. By recognizing parents as partners in their children's education, not just with words, but in creating the space for authentic parent voice, schools can reap the benefits of engaged families.
What was the hardest lesson learned in the past year?
The hardest lesson learned, which is not new but frequently resurfaces in this work, is that far too often the best interests of children are overshadowed by adult interests. Each year, our contract with Detroit Public Schools is challenged by key decision-makers. Efforts to cancel this contract are not about performance; they are only concerned with politics. Over the two school years in which we have operated Parent Resource Centers inside of Detroit Public Schools, we have seen approximately 30 percent increases in parent involvement each year. We have not only met, but exceeded almost every benchmark in our performance-based contract. Nonetheless, the infrastructure Detroit Parent Network has been able to build inside of these school buildings that help tens of thousands of parents successfully engage in their child’s education remains at risk.
We have seen this take place as well in the transformation of the region’s education landscape, where Michigan’s state legislators continue to pass policies that provide for expanded school options, but fail to require these operators to have a proven record of educating children. Entire districts are being contracted to school operators that have, at best, mediocre performance records. As parents, we have to remain vigilant, and continuously push on our policymakers to ensure they stand up for children.
It is not sufficient to just do the work well. In order to sustain the investments we make in parents, we must manage both program performance and the politics surrounding the work so that children and parents receive the support they deserve.
What really differentiates this program?
The Parent Resource Centers are different not only because they effectively and creatively reduce barriers to parent involvement, but also because they've become a strategic platform for reaching parents across the city. By creating opportunities for human service agencies from across the region to connect with parents through our network of Parent Resource Centers, we help to ensure that families reap the benefits of their support. In the mean time, these agencies are now able to more efficiently provide resources and support to families in large numbers. For example, through our partnership with Gleaners Community Food Bank, we have been able to distribute thousands of pounds of food each month to families right at the Parent Resource Centers.
What are the keys to success for this program?
Relationships, hard work, consistency, and strong leadership are key to the success of the centers. In order to be effective in
In order to be effective in this work, we must build and maintain trust with parents. Listening and timely responses to parents' needs and wants are where we see our biggest successes.
this work, we must build and maintain trust with parents. Listening and timely responses to parents' needs and wants are where we see our biggest successes.
For example, in response to overwhelming demand for increased support to parents of students with special needs, we recently partnered with Detroit Public Schools to open a one-stop resource shop for parents at the Drew Transition Center. Parents not only identified the key areas where their families needed support, but also identified agencies from across the community who were best equipped to offer such support. These parents continue to help us refine the programs and services offered through this center. Furthermore, the Parent Resource Centers have become a key connection point for organizations to connect and find new ways to partner. None of this would have been possible without the input of parents.
How do you innovate programming? Where do the ideas come from? How do you know if they are going to work?
We are always asking ourselves how we can better meet the needs of parents. Whether wrestling with the concerns expressed by parents visiting our Parent Resource Centers, or reflecting on the struggles we face in our own families, schools, and communities, we are constantly considering how we can best support parents.
We take a very team-based approach to problem solving. As we allow ideas to marinate, we'll often throw them against the wall like spaghetti and see what sticks. We remain open to continuing to try new things, take a different approach, take risks. Sometimes it doesn't work, most times it does, and at all times we have fun in the process, development, and implementation.
We don't always know for sure that our strategies will work, but since so many ideas come from our team members who are parents, who live this work every day, we can be relatively certain that we are on the right track.
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  • Detroit Parent Network
    To develop powerful parents (and primary caregivers) who are equipped to get the best education possible for their children.


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