Four MCH Family Outreach offices launched a new program to support caregivers called Parent Café. Staff first heard about the support group model during a conference in 2018 and felt it would be a good fit for MCH.
“We often hear from families in the communities we serve that they feel isolated and alone,” said Brooke Davilla, director of MCH Family Outreach in Waco. “When we learned about Parent Café, MCH staff were all very interested in learning more about an evidence-based approach that would provide an additional way of engaging parents and caregivers while increasing their support systems.”
Parent Café curriculum focuses on enhancing protective factors in the home that help strengthen caregiver and child relationships. The ultimate goal of a Parent Café is for parents participating to ultimately be able to run their own Parent Café and create meaningful relationships in hopes to increase their support system in their communities.
Earlier this year several MCH staff became trained facilitators of the Parent Café model and four Outreach locations – Dallas, Lubbock, San Antonio, and Waco – were tasked with piloting the program in their communities. El Paso also recently had a team trained and will start a group in the new year. Dallas plans to start a class in December or January for grandparents who are raising their grandchildren.
“Our Parent Café will be a place where grandparents who are primary caregivers for their grandchildren can come together to support one another and enjoy a meal provided by MCH,” said Erin Baird, MCH Family Outreach director in Dallas. “Grandparents will be able to build connections and support each other as they connect on common struggles they are facing. We are so excited and hopeful for this program, and look forward to our future Parent Cafés!”
Dana Bearden, director of MCH Family Outreach in Lubbock, said they are in the process of locating opportunities to offer Parent Café in their community, and expects it will be a great way to bring parents together to support and encourage one another in a fellowship type setting.
“We see it as a way to engage parents in a different way and the hope is that they will take ownership of their Cafe and be able to sustain it on their own while MCH provides a supportive role,” Bearden said. “We are excited to bring it to the Lubbock community and look forward to watching parents come together to strengthen their families through safe, nurturing connections with one another.”
San Antonio and Waco hosted groups in local schools this fall. Through Parent Café, they have seen an increase in opportunities to partner with local businesses and schools who have interest in donating food, volunteers or spaces to host the support groups. Maegan Bennight, case manager for MCH Family Outreach in Waco, helped to facilitate a Parent Café group in Waco.
“Holding a safe space for parents and other caregivers of children to meet and connect with one another through intentional yet casual conversation is a privilege and such a joy to witness,” Bennight said. “Parent Cafe allows a unique opportunity where parents and caregivers can talk about things that are crucial for the health of their family but that are easily overlooked or pushed aside because of the limitations, expectations and stresses caregivers experience today.”
“It was delightful to hear the laughter during Café conversations as well as the deep conversations that occurred simply by being provided an opportunity to share in a safe environment,” added Sara Beth Stoltzfus, case manager from MCH Family Outreach in Waco who also helped facilitate the group.
Parent Café provides structured discussions where caregivers are encouraged to talk about their challenges and victories with their peers and come away with knowledge and strategies to implement into their home. Participants said they felt heard, comfortable, respected and not judged during the groups.
“Families shared they found they aren’t the only one with the same struggles and they don’t feel so alone, said Yvette Norcross, case manager for MCH Family Outreach in San Antonio. “The reflection after the conversations reinforces we all need help from time to time, and you don’t have to do it alone.”
Melissa Arroyo, director of MCH Family Outreach in San Antonio, added, “We are thrilled with the initial success of the pilots and are eager to look for additional ways we can implement Parent Cafés in all of our communities.”
Parent Café will be expanded to all MCH Family Outreach locations in 2020.