Be Strong Families’ New Strategic Plan

Be Strong Families board of directors has approved a new five-year strategic plan, which included changes to the organization’s mission, vision, and values. Building on its base and expertise in peer-to-peer approaches to strengthening families, the new mission is, “Be Strong Families promotes the empowered engagement of vulnerable parents, youth, children, and extended family members in ways that nurture the spirit of the family and promote well-being, healing and peace across the globe.”

In addition to the new mission, Be Strong Families has also refined its vision for families. More specifically, Be Strong Families sees the becoming of a healthy, strong global family in which: Continue reading

La Neta of Support For Spanish-Speaking Birth Parents

When Elvia Arroyo gained custody of her daughter from the IL Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), she didn’t exactly close that chapter of her life. Instead, she wanted to do something for Spanish-speaking birth parents working to get their children back.

“I was in an abusive relationship and I started drinking and the father of my daughter called DCFS and she was taken from me,” said Arroyo. “She’s home now and I love it! But, I know the Spanish community needs more help.”

When Arroyo was at her lowest, struggling to navigate DCFS, she attended a Be Strong Families’ Get on the Fast Track to Getting Your Kids Back training and immediately connected with the staff and the work. During that time, Be Strong Families was looking to partner with a birth parent to assist with a Spanish version of the Get Real Guide to Getting Your Kids Back (GRG)—a resource guide written by birth parents meant to support parents who are in one of the toughest battles of their lives. Continue reading

Parents Leading Cafes Across The World!

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Parent Cafes are expanding their cultural reach. Last year, Be Strong Families’ CEO Kathy Goetz Wolf traveled to Nairobi, Kenya twice to support Project Harambee Toto, Swahili for Come Together on Behalf of Babies, in bringing Be Strong Families Parent Cafes to the parents of the Soweto East neighborhood of Kibera, one of the world’s largest slums.

The Parent Leader team was born out of a community action group centered on human rights called Soweto Forum (after the neighborhood in Kibera). They started 14 years ago advocating for housing and against violence. Recently, through a collective impact early childhood development project called Harambee Toto, funded by Utopia Foundation and co-led by Maggie Sprattmoran of Traverse City, Michigan and Jimmy Wambua of Nairobi, The Forum has embraced the idea of human development as a human right and begun organizing parent cafes.  Continue reading

Philadelphia IOC Initiative Experiencing the Impact of Be Strong Families Parent Cafes

Improving Outcomes for Children (IOC), Philadelphia’s five-year-old community-based model of service delivery, is taking an innovative approach to providing accessible resources for child-welfare involved families throughout the city. The initiative includes engaging parents and families using Be Strong Families’ Parent Café model and a Strengthening Families™ Protective Factors approach.

IOC is based on the idea that “positive outcomes are achieved through child welfare services that are family-centered, culturally competent, integrated, timely, and accountable for results”. As a result, Philadelphia’s Department of Human Services has partnered with 10 Community Umbrella Agencies (CUAs) with strong connections to their neighborhoods to deliver services for child-welfare involved families.

“Part of the initiative is bringing resources to the community. Everything is in the community for the family, so it is at an arm’s length for them versus them having to catch [public transportation] to get to their services,” said Syreeta Owen-Jones, Program Manager at the Department of Human Services in Philadelphia, PA. Continue reading

Chinese Parent Cafe Breaking Down Barriers

For many low-income Chinese American immigrants, their needs have historically been masked by the Chinese Model Minority myth, a reality Dr. Sandy Baba wanted to address in a study on how service providers could better reach the Chinese community.

“I want to support families who are going through the acculturation process,” said Dr. Baba. “I want to lessen their risk of inappropriate acculturation and I want the families to develop a healthy identity.”

The 48-month study uncovered how stakeholders could go beyond this myth and develop adequate resources for young children and their families. One of the methods Dr. Baba used to gauge the needs of the Chinese community in San Francisco was Be Strong Families’ Parent Cafes. Continue reading

The American Academy of Pediatrics: Limiting Toxic Stress through Early Childhood / Medical Home Collaboration

In 2015, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) launched The National Head Start / Medical Home Learning Collaborative and enlisted Be Strong Families to assist with engaging parents to address toxic stress at several sites across the U.S.

The National Head Start / Medical Home Learning Collaborative included sites in Chicago, Dallas, Seattle, Georgia, Howard County, MD, and Salem, Oregon. AAP not only wants to assist these sites with limiting toxic stress in early childhood, the collaboration also aims to strengthen partnerships between Head Start programs and the medical home initiatives.

According to the AAP, one of the biggest threats to children’s health today is exposure to toxic stress in early childhood. Toxic stress involves the experience of traumatic events in the absence of protective factors, particularly supportive and loving relationships with parents and other adults in a child’s life. Toxic stress disrupts healthy brain development, which can lead to increase physical and mental illness, high-risk behaviors, and other psychosocial implications. Continue reading

Parent Cafe Success Exchange Webinar

In an effort to build and maintain connections with over 160 agencies in 21 states and countries trained on Be Strong Families Parent Cafes, resulting in almost 100,000 Be Strong Families Parent Cafes being held worldwide, BSF has organized a monthly webinar series providing opportunities for parents and program to share café success stories, discuss successful tips on engaging parents and strategies for growing local parent café teams. Continue reading

Parent Leader Highlight: Tiffany Murphy

 By: Dena Chapman

There’s good reason why you should never judge a book by its cover. On the surface, Tiffany Murphy presents as a tough, no-nonsense-kind-of-parent.  But what lies beneath is a strong, loving, energetic mom who has poured her heart and soul into guiding, nurturing and supporting her family.  Prior to her parent café experience, Tiffany described herself as a “traditional single Black mother”.

“I was that stern-not-to-be-fooled with parent.  My way of parenting my son was, I speak and you listen; your opinion doesn’t matter,” said Murphy.  Tiffany believes she got her “tough parent” exterior as a result of being raised by a single mother. Her parents divorced when she was just a year old and her father remarried.  Continue reading

Where Do I Come From and Where are We Going?

Remarks for Closing Plenary of CSSP Strengthening Families Leadership Summit

October 8, 2014

Kathy Goetz Wolf

I am honored to be here and humbled to share the stage with Jim Seymour, Darrell Armstrong, Roger Sherman, Nilofer Ahsan. I am grateful to have been asked by Judy Langford to share my thoughts on the future of Strengthening Families. I was asked to talk briefly about where I come from and where we’re going. I know I’m close to the end of this wonderful marathon event and panel and I will try to be brief and not boring. 

Where do I come from in this work? I started in 1991 – hired by Judy Langford at an organization that doesn’t exist any more called Family Resource Coalition. I knew nothing about the field. I wasn’t a social worker. I wasn’t a student of public policy. At the time, I was a young anthropologist and journalist and grad-school dropout, who was supporting herself as a mortgage broker. Judy Langford hired me to start – slash – be the publications department for FRC – to write and edit. It was serendipity or synchronicity that brought me to this field where I have found my profession and my home and my family for the past 23 years. Over my 12 years with that organization, I learned the field by interviewing, reading and writing about it. I was blessed to enter the conversation at the time when FRC was convening the Best Practices Project. Further blessed to have served as the scribe for that effort. In my comments on where we’re going in Strengthening Families – I have three places to talk about. The first piece of where I think we’re going is directly related to the work of Family Resource Coalition which would later become Family Support America. Continue reading

#Watchtheparents Snapshots

Parent leaders are making things happen across the Chicago land communities to promote vitality and strengthen families! Take a look at what’s been happening and join the conversation on FacebookContinue reading

Parent Leaders and Staff are Waking Up! To Their Potential Through CVPP!

20140626_103013 2This summer, 900 parent leaders are implementing 90 projects that are promoting vitality and building protective factors to strengthen thousands of Chicago land families and their own.
    Beyond the work that parent leaders are doing to improve and strengthen their communities, parent leaders and administrative team members are intentionally working to strengthen their own mind, body, and spirit and build protective factors within their families by taking part in Wake Up! To Your Potential (WUTYP),Living the Protective Factors Workbook and participating in Parent Cafes.
    WUTYP starts with the idea of increasing the four components of vitality—sleep, mindset, diet and exercise—and continues through 10 modules that address nutrition, stress, and taking care of yourself, energy leadership, communicating as a leader, the mind-body connection, drawing strength from positive connections, and bringing your goals to life.  
    Through the Living the Protective Factors Workbook  andParent Café training, parents have been learning to build protective factors within their families and into their communities.
    As parents have been working directly in the community, they’ve been continuing to participate in these trainings throughout July and August. Watch and listen to what administrative team members and parent leaders have been sharing and their experience. 

Administrative Team Spotlights!

The CVPP Administrative teams provide support for 900 CVPP Parent Leaders during the program. In this role, they receive training from Be Strong Families and also provide training to the parents and support for their Parent Leader’s community service projects in July and August. Moving forward, we’ll be profiling administrative team members that are working to make a difference in their community through this program and other endeavors. In the meantime, take a look at what some CVPP administrative team members are saying about their participation in the parent program.


Parent Program Community Projects Preparing To Launch

CAM00225-1As July approaches, the Illinois Community Violence Prevention Program’s (CVPP) Parent Program is preparing to implement over 90 projects led by over 900 Parent Leaders hired this summer in 19 Chicago-land communities.   

    The service projects, which include the delivery of at least 95 Be Strong Families Parent Cafes across the city in July and August, seek to reduce violence in communities by building the Strengthening Families ™ Protective Factors (Social Connections, Parental Resilience, Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development, Concrete Support in Times of Need, and Social and Emotional Competence of Children) in families’ homes and communities and promoting vitality across Chicago-land.
In addition to Parent Cafes, most communities are implementing four additional community service projects, developed by parents, that are designed to build protective factors based on the most pressing needs identified in the community. 

    The projects focus on a variety of areas such as: community beautification, mentoring children and teens, connecting parents to resources through the use of social media, and community workshops and events.

Keep following our newsletter as we bring you pictures and videos of specific service projects in action throughout the rest of the summer. 

            You can also be a part of the energy this summer by participating in the Parent Program’s hashtag campaign on Facebook and Twitter, #watchtheparents!  Check out our Be Strong Families pageto see what’s been going on thus far and to stay connected with the activities of the Parent Program all summer or get connected in your community by contacting one of the local lead agencies here.

Guam Initiative Using Parent Cafes and the Protective Factors to Build an A-List Team of Service Providers

projecttinituhon copyOn the small island of Guam, an unincorporated territory of the United States in the western Pacific Ocean, there’s a big initiative working to improve early life experiences for children by improving services for parents and coordinating an island-wide, cross-agency effort to strengthen and support families.

Guam has long history of occupiers, but it’s connection with the United States started after the island was recaptured from the Japanese by U.S. troops during World War II. Over time and with the different influences, the needs of families on Guam has also evolved.

In 2005, to enhance the island’s limited resources, Guam developed Project Tinituhon (The Beginning), an island-wide initiative began which was focused on coordinating services among child serving agencies and organizations in order to make them more accessible and affordable for parents.  

Several agencies are participating including the Department of Public Health and Social Services, Maternal and Child Health, the Division of Public Welfare, the Guam Public School System, Early Intervention System, Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, Memorial Hospital Authority and the University of Guam-Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Education Research and Service to name of few. The overall goal of the project is to ensure that the basic needs of every child’s early life experiences are met in order to set the stage for young children to grow to become well adjusted, healthy, and productive adults.   Continue reading

Be Strong Families Training and Resource Series Helps Parents Get on the Fast Track to Reunification

It’s difficult to be a parent involved in the child welfare system.  It’s a tough system to understand and navigate.  It’s also a rough time in a parent’s life when they need to make major changes in order to  have their kids living at home with them.  Be Strong Families is committed to supporting parents—practically, emotionally, and spiritually—as they work to reunify their families and stay together and has been rolling out a new training and series of resources to help parents through the journey. These resources were developed in partnership with parent leaders who have experienced the system as parents and brings their unique experience and lessons learned to the table. “The stories shared and training gave me a lot of insight on how people grow and process their experiences in DCFS,” said one birth parent.

Get on the Fast Track to Getting Your Kids Back Extends the Connection Beyond

Workshops, through support from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, Be Strong Families, has been able to roll out a new training in Illinois for families involved with the child welfare system. Get on the Fast Track to Getting Your Kids Back is a three-hour workshop where parents learn the importance of reducing their own stress by focusing on the 3S approach—Strategies for staying organized, keeping documentation, following through on commitments; gaining Strength, and building a network of positive Support.

“The trainings help parents accept reality and owning what happened. It helps them grasp reality without shame and without guilt,” said Melissa Neely, Be Strong Families’ Central Region Parent Coordinator. “When I identify myself as a birth parent, I can see people’s shoulders go down and I can tell their resistance melts…then we can start having real life conversations.”

The session coincides directly with the Parents’ Get Real Guide to Getting Your Kids Back, which parents receive when participating, but Get on the Fast Track is more than just a workshop. Parents can opt into additional booster support groups and individual one-on-one coaching that reinforce the learning and help parents stay connected. Continue reading