Parent & Family Engagement

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Supporting Youth Through The Family Unit

Two years ago, Ms. Wesley* lost her son to Chicago’s gun violence. “I felt low.  I was depressed,” she says. A single mother fighting to raise her other children, she recalls feeling as though she had no where to turn to cope with the pain.  A concerned BAM counselor at her child’s school recommended that she connect with Youth Guidance’s Parent and Family Engagement Program.  Taking his advice, Ms. Wesley found solace among other parents.  “I was astonished at how much the participants actually cared,” she recalls.  “It was so uplifting.”  

Through school activities and personal outreach, program staff and parent cohorts mobilize support around youth and families in need.  Ms. Wesley quickly became involved and feels that she’s now an important part of an extended family.  She gives credit to the program for changing her outlook. “I felt my depression disappear.  I learned that through adversity, […} you can still rise through it all.” Today, she continues to be an active participant, helping others as the program has helped her.

Parents need support too.  Our Parent & Family Engagement Program offers strategies to help parents help their children overcome obstacles and excel. Counseling support and referrals to needed resources are also available so that parents like Ms. Wesley can manage their own grief, trauma and challenges. Youth Guidance supports the whole family, so that families are better equipped to support youth.

*Name changed for confidentiality.

About Parent & Family Engagement…

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Parents who are actively engaged in the educational process have the power to help improve school outcomes. The Parent & Family Engagement Program offers specialized trainings and workshops to parents and caregivers that emphasize the importance of their voice and involvement in their child’s education. Program staff work closely with families to address challenges such as language barriers, complex work schedules or a general sense of disenfranchisement, particularly in urban areas plagued by violence and crime. Working within Chicago Public Schools—and often collaborating with other Youth Guidance program areas such as BAM and WOW—Parent & Family Engagement staff help parents build home-school connections that boost a child’s interest and confidence in academics and extra-curricular activities.

Annual Parent Leadership Conference

Youth Guidance’s dynamic annual two-day Parent Leadership Conference has been a hallmark event for more than 24 years.  The 2017 Rallying the Village: Today, Tomorrow & Beyond Conference was held on February 3rd & 4th at the Hyatt Hotel – McDonald’s Campus in Oakbrook, IL. The two day event included interactive empowerment workshops, inspirational guest speakers, peer coaching and planning, and much more. (See Photos and Videos Online)

Each year, conference topics are based on challenges parents are facing in their communities and focus on positive problem-solving and action-planning to implement within schools. Chicago school staff, agency board members, and invited speakers demonstrate best practices in establishing effective home-school connections throughout the event. The conference also offers excellent professional development for school staff and agency partners, teaching them strategies to increase their school’s capacity to develop better relationships with parents and organize activities to stimulate and sustain meaningful parental involvement that also supports the school’s education goals.

For more information regarding future conference dates, contact Mrs. Della Ezell, Parent & Family Engagement Program Manager at dezell@youth-guidance.org.

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Youth Guidance cultivates parent leaders by using a specialized Parent Connection curriculum, which is aligned with Dr. James P. Comer’s Developmental Pathways.  Cohorts of parent leaders engage in an eight-session professional development course that covers topics such as school improvement, parental support for higher academic achievement, building parent-teacher relationships, promoting positive parenting strategies, conflict-resolution, participating in school decision-making, and more. This approach ensures that adults gain a deeper understanding of how schools and parents can help children learn and develop.

20150821_123028The Parent & Family Engagement team offers coaching and support to parent leaders/family engagement coordinators in a number of ways, including:

  • Parent Support Groups
  • Bring Your Parent To School Day
  • Family Nights
  • Safety/Parent Patrols
  • Youth Motivation Day (specific activities depend on the need/interest and capacity of the specific school).

Parent leaders across schools meet Youth Guidance Parent Specialists to plan their home-school connection calendar, discuss parent recruitment strategies, share best practices, strengthen the functioning of Parent Advisory Councils, problem solve and provide support to one another.   Coaching is provided to help parent leaders participate in school decision-making. Parents gain knowledge in effectively participating in decision-making forums such as building advisory teams, holding regular planning meetings with school administration, and joining Parent Advisory Councils (P.A.C.s) Local School Councils (L.S.C.s).

P1030932Della Ezell, Program Manager, Parent & Family Engagement

Dedication to Parents/Families“I have been working for Youth Guidance for 26 rewarding years!  During that time, I have been involved in many things, including being a clinical social worker providing individual, group and family therapy for numerous elementary, middle and high schools.  I have supervised 500+ parenting workshops emphasizing social-emotional skill building and strategies to help families create meaningful home-school connections.  Today, I am the Program Manager for Parent & Family Engagement and oversee all activities, staff and outcomes that are connected to our family initiatives, including spearheading the Annual Parent Leadership Conference that we have held for the past 22 years.”

Biggest Inspiration: “I am most inspired to hear feedback from a parent/caregiver that their child’s life was transformed because they implemented the parenting skills gained from consistently participating in our workshops, trainings and conferences over the years. They start to see improvements in their son/daughter’s behavior, academic grades and demeanor in school. When I receive that positive feedback, it really makes me feel hopeful, happy, and humble that we are making a major impact—changing one family and one student at a time.  I know that the world will be a better place because of parent/caregiver transformation.”


IMG_3831A happy and healthy family unit is critical to the long-term success of children. 
With your help, we can continue to offer parents valuable tools for dropout prevention and whole family engagement in the educational process.

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