“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
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.
- Parents’ Voices 2020: Focus Group Findings, November 2020
- Aspen Forum on Children and Families, Session: Meeting Parents Where They Dream: Critical Voices and Lived Experiences, March 2019
- Webinar: Engaging Parents as Messengers of the 2Gen Movement,July 2018
- Single Moms Reach New Heights– Roadtrip Nation, November 2020 | Ascend joined Roadtrip Nation and ECMC Foundation to celebrate the release of the film by participating in “Together We Thrive,” a weeklong, digital event series for single mothers and those who support them, including educators, organizations, and policymakers.
- Parent Voices: Amber Angel, February 17, 2017
- Parent Voices: Genesis Batalla and Kristina Jorgenson, February 17, 2017
- Hear How Single Moms Are Thriving in College, November 2020
- While Going Remote, Colleges Forgot That Many Students Are Also Parents, October 2020
- SERIES – Parent Voice During A Pandemic: Ascend PSP Parent Advisors Share Their Quarantine Stories, August 2020
- I Will Not Be Deterred from My Goals as A Parent In 2020, by Waukecha Wilkerson
- A Philosopher’s Perspective on Parenting During A Pandemic, by Jesus Benitez
- 1L Of A Year, by Michaela Martin
- A Working Parent in College Takes on Remote Learning for Himself and His Kids, says ‘Something Has to Give’, by Ariel Ventura-Lazo
- One Student Parent Shares the Impact of The Crisis, by Lesley Del Rio
- An Unfinished Thought: My Life in Quarantine, by Savannah Steiger
- I Am A Mom, Intern, And Student – The Pandemic Made Me A Teacher and Speech Language Pathologist Too, by Yoslin Amaya Hernandez
- What ‘New Normal?’ This Is My Life, by Drayton Jackson
- Postsecondary Completion: What Works for Parents, by Tara Pringle Jefferson
- Meeting Parents Where They Dream: Critical Voices and Lived Experiences, March 2019
- 2Gen Practice Institute Takeaways: Parent Engagement at Every Level, May 2017
- Keys to Degrees and Two Generations of Success, March 2016
- Experiencing ThinkXChange: A Parent Ambassador’s Perspective, January 2015
- Reflections from Diversity Dynamics: A Father’s Perspective, July 2014
- “I Am an Acelero Parent”: Two-Generation Approaches Through A Mother’s Eyes, December 2012
- Young Mom Summit: Bridging the Gap Between Young Moms and Their Community, June 2014
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.
- Parents’ Voices 2020: Focus Group Findings, November 2020
- Principles for Engaging and Centering Parent Voice, October 2020: This set of principles intended to guide interactions with parents and create the best possible conditions to work with parents, and center their voices in 2Gen programs, policies, systems, and research.
- Strategies and Innovations that Support Student Parents briefs, July 13, 2020 | The seven briefs identify the barriers that make it difficult for parents to complete their studies to the best of their abilities and highlight solutions that guide parents to achieve their postsecondary goals.
- Confirming parenting status and assessing barriers to completion
- Leveraging state and federal policy opportunities
- Providing financial supports responsive to parents
- Identifying mental health and well-being interventions
- Creating a family friendly campus
- Adding high-quality non-degree pathways for parents
- Creating networks for parents to eliminate social stigma
- Unpacking the Father Factor, A Critical Link in Building Strong Communities, December 2018 | Exploring the father factor – a critical link in building strong families and communities. Speakers shared research and ideas, highlighted promising practice, and explored policy opportunities to increase engagement of both fathers with their children and social service organizations with fathers.
- Parenting in a New Age: Redefining Community and Systems to Ensure a Legacy of Opportunity for All, March 2019 | The definition of family is evolving, but our programs and policies are not keeping pace. How can we meet the needs of all mothers, fathers, caregivers, and their children? What does it really take?
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.
- What’s in a Word? The voices, perspectives, and language of people affected by policies and programs are essential elements of making them work. To capture those perspectives, Ascend, working with Lake Research Partners, conducted 12 online focus groups of parents across race, ethnicity, and geography in fall 2020 to ask parents with young children how they were experiencing this unique moment in our history and language that could describe families’ hopes, goals, dreams, and challenges. Across groups, the parents had a robust set of ideas and values associated with the term Ascending.
- “Ascending” – What’s in a Word?
- “Family Well-being” – What’s in a Word?
- “Family Prosperity” – What’s in a Word?
“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. https://ascend.aspeninstitute.org/parent-voices
- 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: https://ascend.aspeninstitute.org/parent-voices
- 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: https://ascend.aspeninstitute.org/parent-voices.
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.