Virtual Strengthening Families Maryland Parent Cafés are structured opportunities for parents of children ages 0 – 5 to come together virtually and talk with one another about topics which can help to keep their families strong during this challenging time. Virtual Parent Cafes include all of the elements of the in-person Parent Café model which Maryland Family Network has promulgated throughout the state, using technology to mimic the in-person experience as closely as possible. Patterned after the Be Strong Families/Strengthening Families Illinois Parent Café model, thousands of people have participated in in-person Strengthening Families Maryland Parent Cafés. Now, perhaps more than ever, families need the five research-informed protective factors which are the foundation of Parent Cafés, and which were identified by the Center for the Study of Social Policy to build family strengths and help reduce the likelihood of child abuse and neglect. The peer-to-peer Cafés engage parents in meaningful conversations and provide significant opportunities for parent engagement and parent leadership. Maryland Family Network coordinates and supports Virtual Parent Cafés state-wide, using a capacity-building approach in local communities to train and provide resources to Virtual Parent Café Facilitators.
What Happens at a Virtual Strengthening Families Maryland Parent Café?
Virtual Parent Cafés are up to two hours long, and begin with a review of the virtual technology features so parents can fully participate in the virtual environment. A review of the five Protective Factors is provided, followed by structured one-on-one conversations, then small group break-outs with several discussion questions provided. With the support of a trained Parent Café Room Host, participants explore questions by talking, listening and reflecting during two small group discussions in which they “meet” different parents. After these conversations, a personal commitment, debrief and wrap-up close the Parent Café.
What are the Benefits of Virtual Parent Cafés?
During Parent Cafés, parents are introduced to the protective factors and provided an opportunity to think about how they build those factors in their own families. Post-cafe evaluations and anecdotal data indicate that Parent Cafes may help to:
Reduce stress / feelings of isolation Increase parenting knowledge & skills
Build protective factors Provide opportunities for parent leadership
Facilitate bonding / community-building
In a recent Virtual Parent Café, 100% of attendees said the Café was helpful to them. In addition, as a result of participating in the Café, 100% said they plan to take better care of themselves, 82% said they will be more willing to ask for help when they need it, and 86% said both that they learned something that will help them as a parent and that they will try to understand their children’s feelings.
Participants in one in-person Parent Café shared this about their experience:
- It helped me to be a better mother and to better understand my children’s needs.
- I learned that it is beneficial to talk about one’s problems with others, it makes one feel better about themselves, and that it is not good to keep your feelings bottled up, it only makes you feel more isolated.
- It helped me to be a better person, by better considering things I can make better decisions for my home and my loved ones, and to be more positive.
- What did we learn? To love ourselves more in order to better love others.
Coordinated by Maryland Family Network For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Strengthening Families Maryland Parent Cafés are a Be Strong Families Parent Café model.
Adapted from information provided by Be Strong Families and the Strengthening Families Illinois website. For more information about Be Strong Families Parent Cafes, visit
http://www.bestrongfamilies.net. For more information about the Protective Factors framework, visit http://www.cssp.org/reform/strengtheningfamilies/about/protective-factors-framework.