MANAGING PARENT/YOUTH INVOLVEMENT
Format for Involving Parents/Youths For Levels 3 (Involve) and 4 (Collaborate) parent/youth engagement, collaboratives must first decide whether to hold a “mixed participant” meeting that brings together both staff and parent/youth representatives, or a separate “parent/youth-only” meeting that reports back to the full collaborative.
Some benefits of mixed participant meetings are the increased ability to promote teamwork and reduce stigma. At the same time, there are challenges, including scheduling, how to protect confidentiality, and avoiding “tokenism” since typically only one or two parents/youths are invited to join these meetings. Still, separate meetings can provide more safety and meetings are easier to schedule. For a separate meeting to be effective, a designated staff member should work specifically with the parents/youths, prepare for additional expenses since there are more parents/youths involved, and devote more care to ensuring feedback and decisions from each meeting are shared with the other. The chart below lists additional pros and cons.
A hybrid option is to nominate several representatives to attend both the “mixed participant” and the separate parent/youth meetings to ensure clear communication of each group’s ideas and decisions. Whether it be a mixed or separate group, collaboratives should create communities that foster an environment of supportive cultural diversity and inclusion that offers support and mutual respect for individuals with a diverse perspective of lived experiences.
A “liaison organization” is not the same as the lead agency in a collaborative. It is an organization that takes primary responsibility for working with parents/youths. This organization should possess the following qualities:
- An ability to compensate parent/youth representatives in a timely way
- An ability to advance funds or pre-pay for any travel, including transportation, parking, and hotel if required
- Connections with direct service or advocacy organizations that can help recruit diverse participants or provide support to parents/youths if needed
- Strength-based, trauma-informed staff who serve as a designated contact person
Designated Staff Contact Person
A liaison organization typically identifies a staff member to serve as the designated contact person for parents/youths. Ideally, this person: 1) has a strong understanding of trauma; 2) uses a strength-based, recovery-oriented approach; 3) has the capacity to provide oversight; 4) embraces transparency; and 5) communicates easily with involved parents/youths (i.e., clearly explains official documents and other publications as needed).
The contact person’s responsibilities include
- Recruiting diverse parent/youth representatives (with help from other collaborative members) using established protocols to determine eligibility
- Providing orientation for parents/youths new to the collaborative that includes training on equity and diversity Ensuring participants understand new plans, initiatives, programs, and policies, while relaying decisions and feedback to the broader collaborative
- Maintaining support for parent/youth representatives including meeting prep or follow-up when appropriate Securing accommodations for parents/youths such as translation services, accessible rooms, or alternate sites for virtual meeting participation that allow for privacy
- Creating a supportive and welcoming environment where people with lived experience can openly share their experiences and feel their input is valued
- Talking with an individual parent/youth if there are concerns about their ability to effectively participate in meetings; the contact person may also need to talk with other collaborative members including staff if parents/youths feel stigmatized, marginalized, or judged
- Providing operational support, including compensation, scheduling, and travel coordination