Maryville Academy Launches Parent Cafés in Austin

It has been a priority for Maryville to care for children and strengthen families for the last 135 years.  As Maryville continues to grow our community outreach services, specifically in the area of parent engagement, we are excited to share that we have begun hosting Parent Cafés at the Augustus Tolton Peace Center in Chicago.  Located at 5645 W. Lake Street in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood, the Augustus Tolton Peace Center is a 46,000 square foot building gifted to Catholic Charities by the Austin Bank Corporation.  Adjacent to the building is a 17,000 square foot Peace Garden.  A portion of the building has been shared with Maryville to provide services for children and families. 

A team of designated staff from Maryville’s Crisis Nursery, a Parenting Coach, and our Volunteer Coordinator will be hosting six Parent Cafés over the next three months in an effort to engage families from the Austin community.  The Parent Cafés will begin at 5:30pm with an offering of dinner for the parents and the children.  After dinner, the children are off to play and listen to stories in our designated “Children’s Corner.”  In the spirit of keeping families together, we knew it would be helpful to provide childcare so that parents could attend these Cafés.  We created the “Children’s Corner” so children could be surrounded with caring and nurturing adults and a variety of age-appropriate opportunities for play.  The staff from the Crisis Nursery and our Volunteer Coordinator will engage the children in activities including board games, arts and crafts, and story time. Being that literacy is very important to us, when it is time to leave, each child leaves with a book.  While the children are being well taken care of by our staff, the parents can focus on participation in the Parent Café.  Our first Parent Café was held on June 12, 2018 and transformative conversations have already begun to take place with the parents.

Maryville is committed to facilitating meaningful collaborative conversations with parents to help them achieve greater success in their parenting initiatives.  We are able to facilitate transformative conversations by creating a safe space for parents to share and learn from each other.  We have already seen partnerships forming amongst participants. Parents have the ability to feel connected to other parents which provides support to them. The peer-to-peer sharing and learning is exciting to watch. 

When parents arrive at a Parent Café, we promote well-being and provide parents with knowledge of parenting and child development. Over dinner, we are able to share ideas and resources with parents like www.pathways.org which provide check sheets and tools for parents on developmental milestones and ages and stages of development for young children.

Additionally, by hosting the Parent Cafés, we are able to share with the parents our efforts in this community regarding Violence Prevention.  Maryville CYO is a youth sports league providing free opportunities for open gym and basketball clinics for boys and girls 3rd grade through 12th grade all summer.   

Maryville is proud to be able to deliver Parent Cafés for the families in the Austin community to help develop stronger, more effective and meaningful parenting.

Article by Nina Aliprandi, Be Strong Families Board Member and Director of Program Services at Maryville Academy