Parents may not always know about community resources that can help meet their basic needs or how to access essential services. Language or cultural barriers may make it difficult for some parents to identify services and make the necessary contacts. Providing information and connections to concrete supports can be a tremendous help to families under stress or in crisis. You might provide contact information (a person’s name is most helpful) or help parents make the initial calls or appointments, depending on what parents say they need.
When specific services do not exist in your community, you may be able to work with parents or community leaders to help establish them. Parents can become powerful advocates for a particular cause, such as low-cost, after-school programs or safe transportation for teens, if they know the process for forming groups and creating services.
Your expertise may be most helpful in the following ways:
Linking families with services
- Parents may not be aware of services that could help. You can let them know about all available resources, so they may select what is most appropriate for their needs.
- Parents are more likely to use culturally appropriate services. If you can link them with a service provider who speaks their language or comes from a similar background, parents may feel more comfortable and experience a greater benefit.
- Parents with many needs may be overwhelmed by the different requirements for accessing various services. A “systems of care” approach may be most useful, in which different helping systems work together to support the family. (See Engaging Community Partners in the next chapter.)
Building community services
- Linking parents with community leaders and others to organize support, advocacy, and consulting groups gives parents the opportunity to use their experience to help others.
- Parents who go public with their need or cause usually find that they are not alone. The fact that a parent is willing to publicize a need or cause may mobilize the community.
- Parents who are new to advocacy may need help connecting with the media, businesses, funding, and other parts of the community to have their needs heard and identify solutions.