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Strengthening Families Coalition & PFAST

Strengthening Families Coalition

Parent & Family Advocacy and Support Training (PFAST) & Latino PFAST (LPFAST) Parents as Leaders (PAL) Academy

Donna Rewalt, Program Coordinator,

(919) 560-0538

What is Strengthening Families?
The Strengthening Families Coalition (SFC) is comprised of individuals and organizations that came together  to help close the academic achievement gap through strengthening parental involvement and leadership. Housed at Durham Cooperative Extension, the group offers a Parent and Family Advocacy and Support Training (PFAST) to parents and families as well as a follow-up parent leadership training, Parents As Leaders (PAL).

Members of the coalition include parents and community volunteers, as well as organizations including: Cooperative Extension, DPS Title I Parent Advisory Committee, UNC-TV, Research Triangle Schools Partnership, UNC Schools of Social Work and Public Health and others. Parents who participated in previous PFAST sessions have become leaders in the coalition. Coalition members are dedicated to expanding the group with others, who are committed to parent leadership, want to build trust within the coalition, and wish to be bridge builders with families and schools. The coalition is partially funded through a grant from the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation Community Problem Solving Grant Program.

What is the mission and philosophy of Strengthening Families?
Our mission is to improve the quality of life for families through education, training, and skill building that culminates into school and community involvement. We believe parents and families of public school students are critical to improving academic achievement, closing the achievement gap, and solving community challenges.

SFC is committed to reaching and educating as many parents as possible through the development of an effective program of outreach and community collaborations. Advocacy training and leadership development are essential components to support more parents in increasing their school involvement and in accessing decision-making venues to help improve achievement for their child and others. We also believe it is essential to work directly with our schools; teachers; administrators and our school board.

The group seeks to assist parents in creating mechanisms to generate change through diverse channels and audiences. SFC strives to achieve a state of mutual respect between parents, school and community. Our core values are equity, excellence and inclusion. We are solution oriented and make decisions based on dialogue, research and an assessment of options.

What kind of training does the Coalition offer?
Parent & Family Advocacy and Support Training (PFAST) is a six-session advocacy training for parents, family members or other involved adults who are want to learn how to help their child achieve and better navigate the public schools. Topics include parent-teacher conferences, No Child Left Behind, end-of-grade testing, exceptional children and individual education plans, advocacy and much more. Childcare and dinner are provided each evening. Trainings are held year round at Cooperative Extension, community locations, and at schools. If you or your school/group would like to host a training, please contact the Coalition at 560-0538.

Individuals who complete the PFAST training will have the opportunity to participate in a parent leadership development program–Parents As Leaders (PAL) Academy. Parents who are interested in taking on greater leadership in their schools and communities will gain needed skills and knowledge to become leaders, decision-makers, and advocates for their children and others in the schools and in the broader community.

The coalition offers opportunities for support and additional education through five support groups and ongoing learning opportunities. Coaching and one-on-one support from coalition members and other parents is an important component of this support.

How can I sign up or get in touch with Strengthening Families?
Call Donna Rewalt (560-0538, drewalt@co.durham.nc.us) at Durham Cooperative Extension. Please call if you have questions, would like to participate in the PFAST training, or to find out about joining the Strengthening Families Coalition.

How did Strengthening Families get started?
In 2000 the NC General Assembly authorized funding for pilot projects that would serve to strengthen families and improve the academic performance of children from low-income families. The legislation emphasized collaboration at the local level.

The NC Department of Social Services, along with the NC Association of County Commissioners, implemented a statewide grant process for 15 local communities to hold “collaboration workshops” in their communities. Durham County was selected for a collaboration workshop, which was facilitated by the Jordan Institute for Families and the Institute of Government.

On Friday and Saturday, May 18 & 19, 2001, Durham Collaborators held a two-day Strengthening Families to Close the Achievement Gap Workshop—attended by more than 55 individuals and organizations. Workshop sponsors included, DSS, Cooperative Extension, DPEN, DPS, Health Department, Police Department, Chamber of Commerce and Triangle United Way. Attendees developed specific action steps. The top priority that emerged was the creation of advocacy training for families, particularly at the grassroots level.

Initially, the pilot program legislation included additional funding for 8 communities to implement workshop strategies. Due to state budget shortfalls, this grant program was discontinued. However, the Durham Collaborative, then the Strengthening Families Team, chose to continue its work and develop parent and family advocacy training, with or without funding. Today’s Strengthening Families Coalition is working to bring advocacy training to parents and families throughout Durham