To BUILD relationships with other professionals working with children and families may be one of the most effective ways to increase parenting options and resources. Building networks and partnerships that support children, parents, and families at local and state levels and sometimes at regional, national, or international levels will ultimately BUILD the field of parenting education. While many of these affiliations are informal in nature, membership in professional associations or organizations will provide critical linkages with others working toward similar goals.

Critical BUILD Practices

To BUILD, a parenting educator will

  • Connect and partner with other family-supporting professionals to share resources, support community initiatives, and facilitate referrals between agencies and organizations.
  • Design, develop, and participate in support services and support networks for children, parents, and families.
  • Monitor local, state, national, and international initiatives that affect parenting or impact children and families.
  • Be an advocate for the unmet needs of children, parents, and families.
  • Join and participate in professional groups, associations, and societies dedicated to the enhancement of parent-child relationships, the well-being of families, and the growth of the field of parenting education.
  • Participate in the formation and shaping of child-, parent-, and family-friendly policies for colleague review and dialogue before distribution to appropriate decision-makers in the community and state.

Examples of Specific Professional Objectives for BUILD

The following parenting educator behaviors serve as examples of more specific objectives based on the critical practices for BUILD.

The parenting educator should be able to

  • Analyze key contemporary policies for their implications for parents and the field of parenting education.
  • Write a one-page policy briefing.
  • Form partnerships with major community organizations and public and private agencies that serve children, parents, and families in the state.
  • Convene meetings of parenting educators in the community or state for the purpose of establishing and funding strong networks of support for children, parents, and families.
  • Establish referral procedures and create an electronic parent education communication system.
  • Engage in critical discussions and professional activities that build the field of parenting education and enhance the image of parenting educators at the local, state, national, and international levels.

What We Know About BUILD

The field of parenting education should make an organized, programmatic effort to change or enhance the child-rearing knowledge and skills of families and the child care system (Arcus & Thomas, 1993). It is the development of these organized and systematic efforts to which BUILD pertains.

Parenting is a complex process that is highly influenced by the social context in which it occurs.

To be truly effective, parenting educators must acknowledge the interaction and interdependence among the various contexts affecting children and families.

When educators understand the total system of services and educational programs, they can better appreciate that communities and institutions have to share with parents the responsibility for the healthy development of children and youth. This appreciation then will direct parenting educators to BUILD networks and coalitions that foster a caring environment with communities that make effective schools, adequate housing, good job opportunities, and wide recreational facilities high priorities (Brown & Rhodes, 1991; Brown, 1998).

Understanding the “big picture” will help parenting educators design programs that are tailored to the specific needs of specialized populations. Special populations may include single, divorced, or non-custodial parents; gay/lesbian/bisexual parents; or grandparents raising grandchildren (see EMBRACE). Educational programs should be guided by an understanding of the contexts in which children are parented as well as by an appreciation of the interrelationships among the parent, community, and family support systems (Bronfenbrenner, 1979; Furstenberg, 1976 Halpern; 1990; Powell, 1989; Stevens, et al., 1993).

Parenting educators can help educate legislators and other policymakers so that they can make more informed decisions affecting children and families. Parenting educators who advocate for a specific policy as a means of becoming active in helping other family life professionals must understand policy alternatives education. Family policy analysis is a technical exercise that requires considerable expertise and knowledge of family research and programs (Ooms, 1995). Research-based information that policymakers receive is valued and may be the only information they see from unbiased resources.

When parenting educators understand how political, educational, legal, and medical systems operate, they can be more effective in selecting information to present to policymakers and others (Small & Eastman, 1991).

The field of parenting education has been, and continues to be, shaped by diverse disciplines and institutions. The field of parenting education has a 100-year history in this country (Palm, 1999), a history marked by ever-changing issues, audiences, disciplines, and institutions. Palm describes these as

  • Issues: child rearing, mother-child relationships, infant mortality, psychological development, parent education, child abuse.
  • Audiences: middle- and upper-class mothers, immigant mothers, fathers, two-parent families, single parents, parents of color, working parents, grandparents raising grandchildren.
  • Disciplines: public health, social work, psychology, education, medicine.
  • Institutions: local, state, and federal government agencies; universities; public and private social service agencies; educational organizations such as Parent Teacher Organizations and professional organizations such as the American Association for Families and Consumer Sciences (AAFCS), the National Council on Family Relations (NCFR), and the National Parenting Education Network (NPEN).

As a field of study, parenting education has been described as being large, complex, rapidly growing, and having little or no infrastructure to help it move forward (Carter & Kahn, 1996). No one knows exactly how parenting education will develop in the 21st century, but that it is safe to say the field will remain complex and challenging for its practitioners (Palm, 1999).

Given these circumstances, parenting educators must connect, discuss, brainstorm, plan, and act in concert with others to effect change on behalf of the families they serve. The professional success of the field will depend upon all concerned, that is, knowledgeable stakeholders, coming together to share resources, to work collectively to overcome obstacles, and to meet challenges to build a public agenda that strengthens families (Shor, 1987; Weiss, 1990).


Year published or updated
References & Resources

Arcus, M.E. , & Thomas, J. (1993). The nature and practice of family life education. In M.E. Arcus, J.D. Schvaneveldt, & J.J. Moss, (Eds.) Handbook of family life education: The practice of family life education. (2). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The ecology of human development: Experiments by nature and design. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Brown, M.B. (1998). Recommended practices: A review of the literatures on parent education and support. University of Delaware. []
Retrieved 11-26-02.

Brown, W. K. & Rhodes, W. A. (1991). Factors that promote invulnerability and resiliency in at risk children. In W. A. Rhodes & W. K. Brown (Eds.), Why some children succeed despite the odds (pp. 171-177). New York: Praeger.

Carter, N. , & Kahn, L. (1996). See how we grow: A report on the status of parenting education in the United States. Philadelphia: Pew Charitable Trusts.

Furstenberg, F. F., Jr. (1976). Unplanned parenthood. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.

Halpern, R. (1990). Poverty and early childhood parenting: Toward a framework for intervention. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 60(1), 6-18.

Ooms, T. (1995). Taking families seriously: Family impact analysis as an essential policy tool. Paper presented in Leveun, Belgium. Retrieved online November 26, 2002.

Palm, G. (1999). 100 Years of parenting education. National Council on Family Relations Report, 44(1), 3-6

Powell, L . & Cassidy, D. (2000). Family life education: An introduction. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Publishing Company.

Powell, D. (1989). Families and Early Childhood Programs. Washington, DC: NAEYC.

Shor, I., (ed.) (1987). Freer for the classroom: A sourcebook for liberatory teaching. Portsmouth, NC: Boynton/Cook.

Small, S. A. & Eastman, G. (1991). Rearing adolescents in contemporary society: A conceptual framework for understanding the responsibilities and needs of parents. Family Relations, 40, 455-462.

Stevens, J. H., Jr., Hough, R. A., & Nurss, J. R. (1993). The influence of parents in children’s development and education. In B. Spodek (Ed.), Handbook of research on education of young children, (pp.337-351). New York: McMillan Publishing.

Weiss, H. B. (1990). Beyond parens patriae: Building policies and programs to care for our own and others’ children. Children and Youth Services Review, 12, (pp. 269-284).

Author(s), Presenter(s)
DeBord, K., Bower, D., Goddard, W. H., Kirby, J., Kobbe, A. M., Myers-Walls, J. A., Mulroy, M., and Ozretich, R. A.