PARENT VOICES AT THE CENTER
Two-generation approaches (2Gen) meaningfully engage and listen to families as equal partners in setting and achieving family goals. Family expertise and advice drives the design, implementation, and evaluation of 2Gen services.
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.
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.
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:
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.
- 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
“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.
- Key Takeaways from Parent Voices 2020: 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.
- [Video] Presentation and deep dive by the pollster, Lake Research Partners
- What’s in a Word? Research on what parents think about different terms.
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.
- 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?
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 Brendan.Creamer@aspeninstitute.org.
Meet of a few of the many wonderful Parent Advisors, parents who work with our partners, and their families (shared with permission).
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 – 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.”
- Marjorie Sims, Managing Director, Ascend at the Aspen Institute
- Tetiana Anderson (Moderator), CEO, Brown Paper Bag Media
- Allan Wachendorfer, Program Associate, Vera Institute of Justice
- Tameka Henry, Chairperson of Board of Directors, Acelero Learning
- Tedi Grey Owl, Parent, The Family Partnership