On Friday, Sept. 28, 2018, the Maryland Family Network (MFN) hosted its first Strengthening Families Maryland Parent Café Conference! Over 140 representatives from the early learning community attended this premier event, including organizations throughout Maryland and more than 20 parent leaders.
The opening session for the conference featured greetings by Dr. Karen Salmon, Maryland State Superintendent of Schools, as well as remarks from two parent leaders. With funding from the Maryland State Department of Education, additional sessions included Parent Cafés for those who were new to the model, as well as hands-on workshops and sessions for trained Parent Café facilitators.
The goal of this year’s Strengthening Families Maryland Parent Café Conference was to bring information about the Parent Cafés and Protective Factors to more parents, families, early care and education providers, and other stakeholders throughout the state to continue to help families connect, grow and thrive.
Families already have the most important thing they need–love. Through Strengthening Families Maryland Parent Cafés, parents can build other key factors that can help to keep their families strong. Parent Cafés are an effective family engagement tool, which provide structured, peer-to-peer opportunities for parents of very young children to come together and talk about topics related to the five research-informed Strengthening Families Protective Factors. These Factors have been identified by the Center for the Study of Social Policy as an effective way to help families thrive.
Inclusive of all parents of children birth through age five, Parent Cafés also foster parent involvement and leadership, and they meet Goal Two of the Maryland Early Childhood Family Engagement Framework: Family Engagement Initiatives Should Promote Positive Parent-Child Relationships. Parents report that participating in Parent Cafés help to reduce feelings of stress and isolation, increase parenting knowledge and skills, and help build relationships with other parents.
MFN provides Parent Café Facilitator training for representatives from organizations interested in offering Parent Cafés. For more information about Parent Cafés and Parent Café Facilitator training, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.