Nevada allies at the Children’s Advocacy Alliance (CAA) have convened parents since 2019 through their Strong Start for Children Parent Ambassador program, which mobilizes parents to become involved in early childhood policy and advocacy. The program relaunched virtually in 2021, transforming its outreach efforts to be more equitable and representative of Nevada’s communities. The relaunch also created a shift in power dynamics that centered on the lived experiences of parents and families.
When CAA relaunched the program virtually in 2021, they intentionally developed an equity plan to improve both program and the recruitment process. Allies looked at non-traditional partners to expand their outreach process and worked with local chambers, universities, tribal community organizations, and business leaders. As a result, the program that started with eight parents has grown to 20 members, as CAA works to recruit from communities they haven’t engaged in before. The meetings are structured around the needs of the parents in the cohort and allow for flexibility to shift when needed. Beyond their relationship-building efforts with their community, allies knew that the parents needed to be compensated for their time and efforts through monetary donations and providing child care assistance. Additionally, advocates provided translation services for families with English as their second language.
CAA has partnered with a University of Nevada Reno professor to facilitate the meetings. The facilitator brings a new perspective and direct experience in working with parents. In addition, they are leading a unique storytelling project to better understand the needs of parents and share as a testimony to state legislators. The testimonies and stories have been impactful in creating new relationships with legislative champions who have since started joining monthly calls. These efforts are changing the state advocacy dynamics and creating the space to develop equitable and effective policy changes centered on the needs of parents and their families.
“The Children’s Advocacy Alliance’s Parent Ambassador Program continues to expand advocacy for Nevada children and families. This was again evident as Congressman Horsford requested one of CAA’s parent ambassadors to join him virtually, at the recent State of the Union address.”
Annette Dawson Owens, School Readiness Policy Director
Children’s Advocacy Alliance
These impactful changes came after some internal work and reflection. CAA identified that allies and community organizations worked in silos in the past, which often slowed advocacy efforts. The organization understood that a power shift was needed to create bold changes. That included additional capacity and training to support the parent ambassador program. Additionally, CAA was reflective and intentional of their goals, which led to strong new partnerships.
CAA recommends that advocates looking to take an equity-centered approach to work with parents and the community should take inventory of:
- Your organization’s priorities when convening parents and families
- Who’s at the table and who isn’t
- Where are the gaps in the process where you can bring in external help