The Philadelphia Experience with Parent Cafés

On August 15th, the Philadelphia Department of Human Services held their fourth annual Strengthening Families Summit, which debuted this video introducing Parent Cafés from the perspective of parent leaders. The video speaks to our history with Philadelphia’s Department of Human Services and my own history with Be Strong Families. Six years ago, I came into a Parent Café much like Shadina and Melissa, the parent leaders in the video. I was a case manager at one of Philadelphia’s Community Umbrella Agencies (CUAs) when DHS launched their Parent Café Initiative. An APB went out to staff of all CUAs requesting registrants for a Parent Café. The goal was to provide the Parent Café experience to staff working with families so that we would be able to encourage parents to attend by sharing our authentic experiences. I answered the call – for a free lunch. The venue was in the area where I was doing home visits for the day. Little did I know that my soul and spirit would also get fed. From my first café, I was hooked. The café was hosted by two founding partners of Be Strong Families: our CEO Katthe Wolf and our then VP of Parent Engagement, Dara Griffin. As I watched them present, I thought: “I want to be just like them one day.” Fast forward a year later, I transferred to the Community Engagement department of my agency and became a Strengthening Families Coordinator. One of my biggest responsibilities was hosting Parent Cafés and training coordinators and parent leaders. Nadia attended one of my cafe trainings, I later heard from her that she had the same reaction to me that I had to my first café hosts.

During the panel discussion that followed the video premier, participants reflected on the power of Parent Cafés to continually transform people. Nadia reflected, “Being authentic, being present and being transparent is the reason so many appreciate the Parent Café process. That combination creates magic!” I can never find the right words to really describe the power of Cafés and what they can do for people, what they have done for me. This video gets close – you can really see how cafés are transforming lives. Be Strong Families is proud to have the parent leaders featured as part of our Philadelphia Regional Parent Engagement Advisory Group. We are also excited to welcome Nadia Washington as a staff member this week, as she moves home to Washington D.C. and joins us as our Organizational Advancement Manager and Team Lead, with a focus on our Journey to Vitality program and workplace wellness initiatives.

It’s exactly like Melissa says in the video: “If you’re thinking about going to a café, just do it.”

Article by Kim Velasquez, BSF East Program Manager and Team Lead

Kim VelasquezComment