Parent Cafés: Creating Conversation, Community and Positive Outcomes

From birth all the way to adulthood, parents play an essential role in a child’s life. That’s why at the Bainum Family Foundation, we invest in proven parent-engagement tools and efforts to help children and families reach their full potential.

Meet Marcus Gray
Marcus Circle

Marcus is Program Manager for Parent and Family Engagement at the Foundation. He supports our various initiatives and partners with parent-engagement strategies and activities. In recent months, he has been deeply involved in conducting and providing training for Parent Cafés.

What are Parent Cafés?

Parent Cafés (developed by our partner Be Strong Families) engage parents in meaningful conversations about what matters most — strengthening their families. This nationally recognized model facilitates a series of small-group discussions around five research-based protective factors: parental resilience, social connections, concrete support in times of need, knowledge of parenting and child development, and social end emotional competence for children. These factors, tailored to the respective parent populations, have been shown to mitigate the negative impacts of trauma and, in turn, fortify the foundation of families. Conversations at the Cafés are intended to feel casual and natural, providing parents with a safe, unstructured space to connect and foster relationships with fellow parents — and ultimately feel part of a supportive community.

The process is broken into three 20-minute rounds of conversation for the small group (four to five parents, along with a trained facilitator) seated around a table. Together, the group selects a discussion question from a list of tailored options at the table, and then the facilitator guides the conversation. At the end of the 20-minute round, each member of the group moves to a different table and another discussion begins. Once all three rounds are complete, the Café concludes with a large-group discussion to document and share takeaways.

Building Capacity

On December 14 and 15 in the District of Columbia, the Foundation and Be Strong Families hosted a Parent Café Training Institute — a two-day experiential and highly interactive training that prepared many of our Birth-to-Three Policy Alliance partners to convene and conduct their own Parent Cafés. Nearly 30 attendees from 10 organizations completed the training.

 

Upon completion of this training, our partners received a toolkit containing materials to conduct Parent Cafés at their respective organizations, where they will also receive further coaching from Be Strong Families. By adopting and utilizing this proven model, we believe our partners can deepen their impact with the children and families they serve.

“No matter what you do for a child ― in an early learning center, at school or through other programs and services ― at the end of the day, he or she goes home,” says Gray. “The environment children live in matters just as much as the programs they experience during the day. Parents need to understand how early learning programs work and how their child is developing so they can play their part in the process — especially during the critical early years of life.”