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The Parenting Alliance: Fostering a Culture of Parenting



A. Introduction



Positive parenting practices influence a child's emotional, behavioural and social development. However, research findings indicate that parents feel insecure about their parenting skills and that they "want information and guidance...provided by authoritative sources in the context of a trusting relationship" (Melmed, 1998, p. 1317).



A solution lies in the union of parents, academic researchers, social service providers and other stakeholders who can share their knowledge about effective parenting. The Parenting Alliance is a means by which this can be accomplished.


B. The Connection Between Positive Parenting and Healthy Child Development



The Ontario Early Years Report and studies based on the National Longitudinal Study of Children and Youth have carefully documented the fundamental role of parenting in child well-being and development. During a child's growth, positive parenting may

* decrease the risk of children developing emotional and behavioral problems such as conduct disorder and poor skills in social interaction,

* overcome risk factors such as poverty, single-parenting and maternal depression, and

* have a positive effect on intellectual development and educational performance.



Overall, positive parenting may significantly reduce the odds of a child developing social, emotional and behavioral problems at all ages (Landy & Tam, 1998). Therefore, parents equipped with the proper tools and knowledge can help to raise a well-adjusted child.



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C. The Need for The Parenting Alliance



Parents and practitioners alike feel that gaps in their skills and parenting knowledge need to be filled. The 1999 Invest in Kids' poll of 1645 Canadian households with children under six revealed that 50% of parents recognized the importance of their role but didn't know what to do while 56% felt they didn't receive enough practical support. Ninety percent agreed that there was room for improvement of their parenting skills. Service providers have also expressed concern about the limited and inconsistent access to a knowledge base. From the academic side, researchers are concerned that while they are able to develop knowledge and programs, they are unable to exchange and develop information with the potential users.



Currently, there is no central resource about programs, tools, and resources specifically devoted to positive parenting. A forum for parents, academia and social service providers is also missing in today's communication age. To meet the needs of these disparate groups, a coalition of parents, researchers, social service workers, and other stakeholders formed The Parenting Alliance in 1997. The goal of this growing community is to collaborate on initiatives and to share information, research, programs and tools for practical use by parents. The Parenting Alliance is facilitating the dialogue between these groups through committed and continuous support from community-based service providers, developers of early childhood education programs, researchers, government, healthcare providers, educational institutions, media and other parents. It is fostering a never-before-explored relationship between parents, practitioners and researchers.



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D. A Means To An End



The Parenting Alliance is about knowledge transfer. By encouraging all groups to share their expertise and experience, members--and all people that they touch--become empowered. The Parenting Alliance is assisting this process through a number of means: conducting and contributing to parenting research, organizing workshops and conferences, and soon offering collaborative tools through an online community.



A sampling of completed work to date includes research and evaluation studies. One such study evaluated a brief psychoeducational parenting program for parents of three- and four-year-olds. The program featured the child behaviour management video program called "1-2-3 Magic." With the help of more than two dozen trained practitioners, the program was delivered to over 200 families and evaluated through a rigorous randomized controlled design. Facilitators presented the video and led families through discussions and problem-solving sessions. Parents were given tools to better manage their children's behavior while remaining sensitive to their developmental needs. The research findings from this study will be used toward the improvement of existing and new parenting programs and to further educate service providers and the public.



In another study, The Parenting Alliance conducted an evaluation in collaboration with Yorktown Child and Family Centre in Toronto. Here, the focus was on the cultural adaptation of the well-known Community Parent Education Program (COPE) for the Somali community. COPE is a well-researched program that teaches parents how to increase positive behavior, avoid conflicts, encourage cooperation and respond to a child's aggressive behavior. The report on this project highlights the steps required to tailor programs for diverse communities and forms the foundation for longer-term work and further study.



Forthcoming work includes a non-technical literature review about effective, evidence-based parenting programs. This will be made available to community agencies. Research will also be disseminated through workshops, conferences, training sessions and symposiums.



No-fee workshops about effective parenting and parenting programs will be offered to social service providers across Ontario until March 2002. These workshops, facilitated by Susan Bradley, M.D., and Nicole Constant, are designed to enhance the knowledge about the latest in child development and parenting research and evidence-based parenting interventions. They will take place in Etobicoke, Toronto, Peel, Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Metro East, North Toronto, Barrie, London and the Niagara Region. To register or for more information about these workshops, please contact Natalie Myhal at (416) 813-1084 or send an e-mail to natalie.myhal@sickkids.ca.



From April 28th to 30th, 2002, The Parenting Alliance will be hosting a conference in Toronto. Carolyn Webster-Stratton, Ph.D., will present her evidence-based program, The Incredible Years. Kenise Murphy Kilbride, Ph.D., of Ryerson University will present her work on families, parenting and diversity. Charles Cunningham, Ph.D., will speak about his research in the area of marketing parenting programs. Donald Gordon, Ph.D., will be speaking about Parenting Wisely, his CD-ROM-based program, that has been previously evaluated with older children and is currently being modified and evaluated with younger children. Conference participants will have the opportunity to attend poster presentations, and smaller-format workshops about positive parenting and parenting programs. For more information, please contact Joanne Paul at (416) 232-2581 or send her an e-mail at jospence@sympatico.ca



Through research, online collaboration, workshops and events, The Parenting Alliance creates unique opportunities to collect feedback, to learn more about the needs of each of its stakeholder groups and ultimately to build and disseminate a body of knowledge and research around parenting. Ultimately, a repository of evidence-based supports, tools and programs will be created to support the needs of parents and those that help them.



For general information about The Parenting Alliance or about becoming a member, please contact Joel Brody, Director, or Dale Van Steinburg, Administrative Assistant, at (416) 813-5232, or send an e-mail to dale.vansteinburg@sickkids.ca.

E. References



Alaggia, R. (2001). An overview of parenting programs for families with young children: What works? Toronto, ON: The Parenting Alliance.



Boydell, K. & Volpe, T. (2001). Implementing The Parenting Alliance: A process evaluation. Toronto, ON: The Parenting Alliance.



Hoen, B. (2001). Daryeelka Qoyska: Learnings from the development of a family education program with the Somali community. Toronto, ON: Yorktown Child and Family Centre & The Parenting Alliance.



Human Resources Development Canada. (1999). Understanding the early years: Community impacts on child development. Retrieved September 12, 2001 from the Human Resources Development Canada Web site: http://www.hrdc-drhc.gc.ca/arb/publications/research/1999docs/w-99-6e.pdf.



Human Resources Development Canada and Statistics Canada. (1996). Growing up in Canada: A detailed portrait of children and young people. Retrieved September 12, 2001, from the Human Resources Development Canada Web site: http://www.hrdc-drhc.gc.ca/arb/publications/books/class90/ growing_up.shtml.



Invest in Kids. (1999). The parent poll: A national survey of parents of children under six. Retrieved September 12, 2001, from http://www.investinkids.ca.



Invest in Kids. (n.d.). Needs assessment: Training for professionals who work with young children. Retrieved September 12, 2001, from http://www.investinkids.ca.



KU Work Group on Health Promotion and Community Development. (n.d.). Chapter 1, Section 3: Our model of practice: Building capacity for community and systems change. Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas. Retrieved September 12, 2001, from Community Tool Box: http://ctb.lsi.ukans.edu/tools/EN/part_1001.htm.



KU Work Group on Health Promotion and Community Development. (n.d.). Chapter 1, Section 7: Working together for healthier communities: A framework for collaboration among community partnerships, support organizations, and funders. Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas. Retrieved September 12, 2001, from Community Tool Box: http://ctb.ukans.edu/tools/EN/section_1381.htm.



Landy, S., & Tam, K. K. (1998). Understanding the contribution of multiple risk factors on child development at various ages. Retrieved September 12, 2001, from the Human Resources Development Canada Web site: http://www.hrdc-drhc.gc.ca/arb/publications/research/abw-98-22e.shtml.



Melmed, M.E. (1998). Talking with Parents about Emotional Development. Pediatrics, 102 (Suppl. November), 1317-1236.



Ontario Children's Secretariat. (1999). The early years study. Retrieved September 12, 2001, from the Ontario Children's Secretariat Web site: http://www.childsec.gov.on.ca:80/1_main_level_site_pages/ resources.html.