UNIVERSITY FOR PARENTS
We are exceedingly proud of our newest initiative, a unique and gravely needed program currently piloted in Atlanta. The regenerative University for Parents protocol inspires and advances struggling parents and primary caregivers through education, inspiration and workforce-readiness support with our 40-plus local partners. The program is designed to assist parents in overcoming the internal and external barriers to self-sufficiency. We focus on the building blocks for a healthy, high-quality life, emphasizing parenting, workforce readiness and conflict-resolution skills, critical to strengthening the fabric of our families and communities and succeeding in industry. Our restorative program for parents offers free daycare and nutritious hot meals for children and parents while classes are in session.
Developed in partnership with the United Way of Greater Atlanta and the Kennedy-Satcher Center for Mental Health Equity (formally known as the Division of Behavioral Health of the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at Morehouse School of Medicine), the curriculum is customized to meet the needs of parents specifically within the low-income, high-need Promise Neighborhood and Jackson Cluster of metro Atlanta. The University for Parents also has a strong focus on early childhood education, with a program framework developed with the Kennedy-Satcher Center’s Smart and Secure Children program. Providing engaging and development-focused care for children while parents are in class, the program builds upon Smart and Secure’s intervention, which encourages brain development, cognitive functioning, language and reading development, and social and emotional health by changing the behaviors of parents.
With over 40 community partners offering workshops and services, the University for Parents provides a transformative model to empower underserved and under-resourced parents to change the trajectories of their lives. Courses include A New Way Forward (mental and physical wellbeing), Fatherhood classes, Life Skills, Active Parenting, Smart and Secure Children’s Parent Leadership Program, Literacy and Culture, Good Citizenship, and Career Readiness, among others. We are also a proud community partner of the Solicitor-General’s Office serving Fulton County, Atlanta, which diverts adults to our program instead of to prison, and a partner of the Fulton County Juvenile Court who mandates parents to our program. Directly addressing key challenges relating to economic sustainability and self-sufficiency that many low-risk offenders face, especially after they have spent time in prison, the University for Parents connects vulnerable adults to vital community resources, giving them a place to heal and focus on their own wellness, without judgment. In the past year, we have graduated over 100 parents directed to our program through these partnerships, which are just an example of how our programs engage a model of community collaboration, extending emotional, social and academic support; technology; hard- and soft-skills trainings; and consumer support services to marginalized parents who enthusiastically embrace this opportunity to move themselves and their families toward sustainability.
Research shows that children in crisis are best served, when, in addition to programs supporting their advancement there is undergirding available for their parents, many of whom stand wounded and in need of radical healing. This semester we currently serve 115 adults in metro Atlanta, many of them gravely in need of additional support. Our needs assessment found that 76 percent of program participants have an annual family income of $25,000 or less, and the majority, 58 percent, have an annual income of less than $10,000 per year. Nearly half (47%) of our participants say they have less than a GED education, and on average participants were parents or caregivers of at least two children.
Data from our program evaluations are proving exciting results. Most noted is the uniqueness of the program and its organizational culture, which has been characterized repeatedly as welcoming, nurturing and responsive. Many participants comment on how their lives have changed thanks to the University for Parents. For example, one mother, Kayla said, “I really feel like someone cares about me…I came here through a referral from Families First. I am now a homeowner and a newlywed because of this support circle.” Naisy said of the A New Way Forward (ANWF) Classes, “Dr. Fiyah’s ANWF class saved my marriage because I learned how to talk to my husband more gently. We need to bring ANWF to my native Nicaragua. My 29-year old son is inspired and ready to lead these wellness circles back home.”