Parent Voices at the Center – Mircosite

“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

Two-generation approaches (2Gen) meaningfully engage and listen to families as equal partners in setting and achieving family goals. Family expertise and advice drive the design of 2Gen services.

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.

Core to Ascend’s Parent Voices work are these eight principles:

Download “Principles for Engaging Parents”

Listen to Parents – click for more

It makes a difference to hear the stories of parents in their own words. Ascend Parent Advisors — leaders, community members, students, and dreamers in their own communities — share their lived experiences and views on how parents can inform two-generation policy, practice, and research. Get to know them and hear what they have to say.

  • Student-Parent Podcast: 1 in 5: Ascend at the Aspen Institute and production company, Lantigua Williams & Co. features interviews with Ascend Parent Advisors and Network Partners. Hear their own stories of balancing resilience with childcare but also celebrates their resilience to improve their well-being and highlights the organizations that are advancing their success.



Taking the Pulse of Parents – click for more

“Well-being is happy, healthy and safe, and family well-being is more like having a balanced life.”
— Asian mother, Parent Voices 2020 participant

From the start, Ascend has continually invested in listening and learning from families. We have conducted focus groups to hear how they describe in their own words their dreams and the barriers that stand in the way of fulfilling them. We have commissioned public opinion research to better understand voter support so that we can strengthen political will around policy issues central to family well-being. With a strategic and intentional focus on bipartisanship, racial and gender equity, and an expanded definition of family structures, our research has connected us to family voice and helped us to learn what families need and want so that they can reach their full potential.

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

Learn from Parents – click for more

Over the last decade, Ascend has partnered with and learned from parents across the country. Parent collaborations demonstrate the impact and importance of intentionality when lifting and centering parent perspectives. These resources can guide your work to create partnerships with parents that are meaningful, authentic, and lead to change.

Elevate Parent Voice – click for more

We encourage you to share these resources and tools that elevate parents with your networks. Please find a Parent Voices webpage one-page guide (linked here) and sample social media posts for your outreach.

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. /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: /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: /parent-voices

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

See the faces of a few of the many wonderful Parent Advisors, parents who work with our partners, and their families (shared with permission).

Michaela Martin, Parent Advisor, with son
Michaela Martin, Parent Advisor, with son
Jesus Benitez, Parent Advisor
Jesus Benitez, Parent Advisor
Savannah Steiger, Parent Advisor, with family
Savannah Steiger, Parent Advisor, with family
Leslie Del Rio, Parent Advisor, with son
Leslie Del Rio, Parent Advisor, with son
Amber Angel, Parent Advisor, with daughter
Amber Angel, Parent Advisor, with daughter
Michaela Martin, Parent Advisor, with son
Michaela Martin, Parent Advisor, with son
Waukecha Wilkerson, Parent Advisor
Waukecha Wilkerson, Parent Advisor
Ariel Ventura-Lazo, Parent Advisor, and children
Ariel Ventura-Lazo, Parent Advisor, and children
Mother with Hispanic Unity Florida
Mother with Hispanic Unity Florida


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 Parents for their Expertise: Ascend provides an honorarium to all parents who join our convenings or serve as advisors to Ascend initiatives. Please click here to learn about compensating parents in Principles for Engaging and Centering Parent.

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

1 in 5 Student Parent Podcast

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.

Power Shifting: Parents Leading the Way

Authentic engagement and radical listening: this is how 2Gen innovations begin. In this discussion, from the Aspen Forum on Children and Families 2021, hear from parents who have elevated their voices and in turn shaped programs and policies for other families. As an Ascend Parent Voices 2020 focus group mother told us, “we can be unstoppable.”

Speakers include: