Published On: February 2, 2024

Easterseals Crossroads has partnered with Be Strong Families and been trained by them to bring Parent Cafés to our program participants. Cafés are physically and emotionally safe spaces where people talk and listen to each other on topics that matter to them, such as the challenges and victories of raising a family, navigating landscapes of inequality, enhancing well-being or being involved in the recovery process of someone they love.

Through individual deep self-reflection and peer-to-peer learning, participants can explore their strengths, learn about the protective factors and create strategies from their own wisdom and experiences to strengthen their families. Participants can leave Cafés feeling inspired, energized and excited to put into practice what they’ve learned.

What is the Goal of Parent Cafés

Be Strong Families Parent Cafés are a research-informed practice, drawing on the research base of the Strengthening Families™ Protective Factors. The effectiveness of Parent Cafés is supported by over a decade of experiential evidence in communities in the US and internationally, as well as by evaluation and research conducted independently which shows that Parent Cafés are effective in achieving short-term outcomes that are the foundation for the intended long-term outcomes, such as families experiencing increased well-being. The program was first developed in 2007 by parent leaders from Strengthening Families Illinois; today, the Parent Café remains a parent-to-parent way to build the Strengthening Families™ Protective Factors within families.

Our goal is to offer Parent Café to any families of children with disabilities who are receiving services in an Easterseals Crossroads program. It is our hope that we can provide from four to six Cafés per year. It will provide families with an opportunity to make connections with other families of children with disabilities who face similar issues and concerns in a safe setting. Our hope is that in addition to the connecting and sharing that takes place at each Parent Café, families will develop relationships and a support circle that can extend outside of the Café events as well.

Ultimately, it is our hope that attendees will develop social capital to help improve feeling alone and isolated while raising children with disabilities. It will benefit families who are utilizing services in our autism, children’s therapy, and our Family Opportunity Program. It is a great fit for Easterseals Crossroads because parents of children with disabilities need an opportunity to share like experiences and often don’t have it or can’t take advantage due to childcare or cost.

Meeting Content

At each Parent Café , we provide a meal for both the parents and children, as well as safe, free childcare so the parents can relax and engage fully. The parents are divided up into small groups of three or four at tables. Each table has a parent participant designated as table host who will facilitate the discussion using the Parent Café in a Box conversation deck of cards. The table host receives a gift card as a stipend for working at the event.

At Parent Cafés every voice is valued, and everyone has the opportunity to both learn and lead. Participants discuss questions from a few different categories out of the five Strengthening Families Protective Factors which include Parental Resilience, Positive Social Connections, Knowledge of Parenting and Child / Youth Development, Concrete Support and Social and Emotional Competence. Each parent can respond to the questions. After the questions are discussed at separate tables, the entire group shares and discusses what was learned.

Parents learn from peers (other parents); our staff are present to implement and provide a setting that is comfortable, safe and conducive to sharing and learning.

More Information

Our next Parent Café will be held in March 2024, which will be the second event this calendar year.

If you are interested in learning more about Parent Cafes at Easterseals Crossroads, please let us know by completing this brief form.