Effie Alofoje-Carr is a proud native of Detroit, MI who currently coordinates the Ingham Local Leadership, serving the Lansing, MI area in maternal, infant, and child health and education. She is an author, speaker, and women’s event host, inspiring women to make over their lives to live out their dreams. She has worked as a legal advocate for survivors of domestic violence and as an outreach coordinator of after school programming for young girls. Effie holds a B.A. from Michigan State University. She and her husband are parents of a brilliant and active 7-year-old son.
A Parent’s Reflections on What it Takes to Recognize and Develop Parent Leaders
Finding parents leaders may be nuanced but it is not necessarily complex when the right people are on the lookout for those who might be ready to move into leadership roles. The wonderful opportunities that come from being connected to that first trustworthy person who believes in the skills parents bring to the table benefit not just the parent leader, but the entire family. This can affect everything from health and stability to economic security. Improvements of this nature start with someone who is a cheerleader in the lives of families and who readily keeps the pulse on how they can evolve into something greater than their current circumstances. Furthermore, the person who initially taps into parents and provides them the right resources and platform helps to create the empowered leaders who will become a testament to a system that is working well.
Several years ago, I personally took a risk when I asked for support as I neared the middle of my pregnancy. I welcomed someone who turned out to be a very loving and safe professional into my home. I had an incredible home visitor whom I credit with setting me on my current career path and journey into parent leadership. She was able to support me, as well as my husband, on our pregnancy and parenting journey until our son was two years old. During the time we spent together, we did a lot of family work that laid the foundation for positive outcomes. She also consistently shared various opportunities for community involvement, as well as opportunities that would help me explore growing my career again when I was ready. I vividly remember her being such a champion of my dreams and goals. We worked together to create a plan and did goal setting exercises. As she became familiar with my strengths, she encouraged me to get involved with parent leadership. Her belief in me fueled the beginning of my journey, but her consistent excitement and encouragement as we would discuss my growth and the opportunities that were coming my way kept me active and connected to more opportunities. She constantly reminded me I was brilliant and capable. When I began feeling like motherhood might end up being the pinnacle of my accomplishments, she gently pushed me in the direction of my leadership potential. I’ll never forget how proud she was to see me teaching and leading workshops at professional development conferences and events she would attend. To this very day, I lean on her words and confidence in my abilities as I continue to advance and explore my role within this work.
So now you may be wondering, what type of person can identify those who might be willing to embark upon a parent leadership journey? People with the ability to recognize potential parent leaders and nurture them along:
- Are in positions that allow for time and work to build deep relationships with parents.
- Are savvy and instinctive.
- Credit lived experiences as valid.
- Have a strong belief in empowering parents to use their voice effectively to create changes in their own lives as well as improvements that are valuable to the systems in which they are connected.
- Can assess those who will both enjoy leadership and possess a willingness to learn and grow their skills while tending to a growing family.
- Can communicate their trustworthiness to parents, making it significantly easier for parents to consider taking steps into the parent leadership world.
- Are well-regarded and viewed as wise, allowing parents to feel comfortable weighing personal decisions and making plans about future endeavors.
- Provide coaching on goals and personal development.
- Express authentic and genuine ideas about parents with untapped talent and skills and encourage them to be utilized.
- Can identify desires and passions that even indirectly are in alignment with the work needed in parent leadership.
- Are resourceful and community oriented in their efforts to link parents up with community opportunities and events that will improve parents’ skills and future outcomes.
Parents are absolutely their child’s first teacher and, in many cases, our communities’ frontline leaders when you consider the many ways parent involvement shapes early childhood systems. It makes sense, therefore, to prioritize the keen insights of those individuals who work with families directly, like my home visitor. A parent leader may not necessarily be born on their baby’s birthday, but whenever someone within the system demonstrates trust in their abilities by offering the chance to step up and shine, innumerable possibilities are born.
This case study describes Michigan’s parent leadership program model, one that was 30 years in the making. The model, a concept tested over the last eight years, can be replicated within any early childhood system or program.
Blog December 3, 2021
This spotlight highlights Latinx early childhood leader Pilar Torres. Pilar is co-founder and president of LUNA Latinas Unidas which provides advocacy and professional and business development services to Latina early childhood professionals.
Podcast December 3, 2021
First Things First, Arizona’s early childhood agency, has worked over time with the many Native American tribes in the state to develop a tribal consultation model that works for both sides. With the shared goal of supporting healthy development for young children and their families, they’ve found ways to balance the state government’s data and policy needs with protecting the privacy and power of sovereign tribal nations. Host Karen Ponder speaks with Councilwoman Carletta Tilousi, an elected member of the Havasupai tribal council, and Liz Barker Alvarez, chief policy advisor at First Things First.
Blog December 2, 2021
Home-based education leaders Ruth Kimble, DeCarla Burton, Martina Rocha, and Erma Jackson contributed to this second blog in the HBCC Voices from the Field Series.