United Way: Parent Education Initiative

Summary and implications for discussion

The Greater Twin Cities United Way funded 14 parent education programs in 2009 to serve low-income and/or culturally diverse parents and their families in order to increase the number of children who are ready to enter kindergarten. This report documents progress on program implementation and participation during the first year of the two-year Parent Education Initiative. Participant-level outcomes will be reported in the final report in February 2011.

Recruitment and retention

The 14 programs served a total of 877 parents and 932 children in 758 households in 2009. The programs varied in size from 16 to 131 households. Each served different populations. Eleven of the 14 programs reached or exceeded their targeted number of households.

According to the programs, being part of this Initiative enabled them to expand to serve more families, new populations, or re-start programs that had been unfunded in recent years.

Successful recruitment strategies included formal and informal collaboration with other agencies, positive word of mouth from satisfied clients, and recruitment from within their own larger organizations or networks of organizations.

Programs encountered numerous challenges in meeting their recruitment targets including families dealing with multiple issues (such as mobility, unemployment, family violence, substance abuse, or mental health issues) that interfered with full engagement in the parenting program and parents preferring early education for their children more than parenting education.

Eighty percent of families either successfully completed or are still enrolled in their programs. The most significant challenge to retaining families was family crisis, including: mobility, divorce, job changes, custody changes, new children in the family, child protection cases opening, deportation, loss of basic needs, and homelessness. Programs addressed these challenges by increasing referrals, offering incentives to help them meet immediate needs, collaborating with other service providers to create a comprehensive system of care for participants, and being flexible with clients. 

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