Parent Voices at the Center

“I don’t just want to be a voice. I want to be part of the action.” 

Ebony Beals, parent, business owner, Springboard to Opportunities participant 

Parent Voices

Parents, caregivers, and guardians are core to the development of their families success, and their access to resources and supports opens up the potential for their entire family to grow and thrive.Every family deserves the opportunity to reach their full potential, but many families – particularly families with low incomes, families of color, families led by single parents, and non-English speaking families – face barriers to existing structures and systems that limit their ability to benefit from these foundational environments and experiences.

Parents’ insights, strengths, and lived experiences are the greatest tools to advancing equity and strengthening family well-being, which is why listening to Parent Voice is a hallmark of the two-generation approach, which builds family well-being by intentionally and simultaneously working with children and the adults in their lives together. Parents are most intimately affected by long-standing policies and practices that are in place, and therefore offer invaluable leadership to meaningfully pursue ideas and innovations to improve upon them.

In partnership with the Ascend Network and parents from across states, tribes, and territories, we would like to share with you the power of parent voice. Business, education, government, housing, health, and social services sectors share the responsibility to consider families’ realities and honor their perspectives and incorporate family-supportive policies and practices. We’re pleased to share resources to give you ideas for co-creating clearer, more equitable pathways for families to achieve their ambitions.

The most important aspect of moving families toward prosperity is meeting families where they are and dream. 

The following content is filled with wisdom and lessons about policies, programs, and supports from parents connected to Ascend. The contributions below represent the Ascend Parent Advisors who are also leaders, community members, students, and dreamers within their communities. Their lived experiences have and continue to play a critical role in informing local and national two-generation policies, practice, and research.  Get to know some of Ascend’s remarkable Parent Advisors and partners and hear what they have to say.

  • Student-Parent Podcast: 1 in 5: Ascend at the Aspen Institute and production company Lantigua Williams & Co. sought to answer this question by launching the 1 in 5 podcast to learn what it’s like to care for a child and pursue a postsecondary credential from student parents themselves. 1 in 5 features interviews with Ascend PSP Parent Advisors, Network Partners, and student parents who are affiliated with our Network Partners. This 15-episode narrative documentary collection not only underscores the barriers they face balancing their studies with childcare but also celebrates their resilience to improve their well-being and highlights the organizations that are advancing their success.



Over the last decade, Ascend has partnered with and learned from parents across the country. Parent collaborations demonstrated the impact and importance of intentionality when lifting and centering parent perspectives. The resources below are intended to guide and strengthen parent partnerships in work to advance family prosperity and redefine systems to meet the needs of all children and the adults in their lives. 

Our learnings have demonstrated the critical role parents and those with lived experiences play in shaping effective policies, programs, and initiatives that work to support family outcomes and alleviate poverty. Far too often the decision-makers are those with lived experiences who are sidelined. Organizations and initiatives that have parents and family voices at their cores are able to honor and understand the various experiences and how to best meet the needs of families.  

We invite you to engage in our ongoing campaign that is focused on lifting parent voices in workplaces, community.

“When I feel like giving up, I look at my kids and they motivate me to be better. 

Lynnette Coney, Ascend Parent Advisor

Our Commitment to Parent Voices

At its core, a two-generation approach recognizes children and the adults in their lives through a comprehensive understanding of families and their situations as a whole. Families come in all shapes and sizes, and our work must reflect the multiple dimensions of family life – as defined by families themselves – based on structure, gender, race, ethnicity, generation, and class. It’s important to understand that no single voice family experience is a monolith and cannot represent a larger collective family experience. 

As part of Ascend’s unwavering commitment to affirm parents, caregivers, and guardians as key expert partners, Ascend has made investments in parent-driven funds and has compensated student parents who have offered their time, talent, and expertise to participate in efforts that advance 2Gen solutions for families. That is why since 2011, Ascend has continually invested in focus groups with diverse parents to ensure critical connection to and tap insights from all families.

  • Aspen Parent Powered Solutions Fund (July 2020) Parent leaders selected six organizations to champion college success for undergraduate students raising children to each receive $25,000 to support student parents in completing postsecondary programs including workforce development, career, technical, and postsecondary education. 
  • Compensating Parent Advisors: Ascend provided additional $1,000 honorariums to the Parent Advisors for their supportive role as community leaders during the coronavirus pandemic.

Share this work

Hashtags: #ParentVoices, #2Gen 

  • Parents are experts when it comes to knowing what supports they and their children need for success. @AspenAscend’s Parent Voices work is filled with resources to give parents a seat at the table.
  • We can all guess how parents are feeling during this time – but it makes a difference to hear it in their own voices. Dig into the results of our Parent Voices 2020 survey here:
  • We know that access to childcare is essential to parents– but it makes a difference to hear it in their own voices. Dig into the results of our Parent Voices 2020 survey here. Learn more about ways we can help parents and children here:

If you would like to share more Parent Voice materials with us to feature, please email Brendan Creamer at

Being a student parent is a marathon, where so much of our success derives from carefully passed batons. If you slip for one second, you can lose the race. I’m grateful to have come so far to be able to share the beauty of the struggle as a parenting student, and to show how far we still have to go. 

Ariel Ventura-Lazo, Ascend Parent Advisor 

Listen to 1 in 5 - A Podcast about Student Parents

An Ascend podcast produced by Lantigua Williams & Co.  1 in 5 podcast to learn what it’s like to care for a child and pursue a postsecondary credential from student parents themselves. 1 in 5 features interviews with Ascend PSP Parent Advisors, Network Partners, and student parents who are affiliated with our Network Partners. This 15-episode narrative documentary collection not only underscores the barriers they face balancing their studies with childcare, but also celebrates their resilience to improve their well-being and highlights the organizations that are advancing their success. Listen here.