For more than 30 years, Parent Promise has been providing home visitation services to help families in Oklahoma County overcome the challenges of parenting and break generational cycles of family dysfunction. While most of Parent Promise’s services have centered on working with families with children under 5, a new program focused on helping families with older children has been operating for two years with the help of two local foundations.
Parent Promise introduced the Exchange Parent Aide program in 2018, and now two Parent Aides are dedicated to this particular home visitation model. Exchange Parent Aide is the signature program of the National Exchange Foundation, which has the prevention of child abuse as its primary philanthropic endeavor. The OKC metro area supports three Exchange Clubs, and it was the Oklahoma City Exchange Club that founded what is now known as Parent Promise.
Parent Promise started partnering with the Oklahoma State Department of Health in 1995 to provide home visitation services to families with children 5 and under. However, no state or federal funds focus on helping families with children over 5, and Parent Promise started working in 2017 to try to fill that gap in services.
“We know that our work with families when their children are under 5 is vital,” said Sherry Fair, Parent Promise executive director. “However, we also know that when children get older, families face new challenges with positive parent-child interaction, and particularly, discipline. No one in Oklahoma County had any home visiting services for families with children older than 5. This was a gap that needed to be filled.”
Sarkeys Foundation and The Arnall Family Foundation stepped forward in 2018 to help Parent Promise bring back the Exchange Parent Aide model. Two years later, the Exchange Parent Aide has an enrollment of 20 families with the capacity to serve 25-30 families. Six families have graduated from the program since 2018.
Latoya Jones, who has been working with the Exchange Parent Aide program since 2018, said she has found that parents with older children particularly appreciate the information and guidance regarding discipline. Jones said many of the families she works with have had somewhat volatile relationships in their past, and they often resort to physical punishment (spanking) as their one and only disciplinary technique.
“Many of these parents grew up in households with spanking as the norm,” Jones said. “We teach them that there are other ways to help their children control their behavior, and we provide them the information they need to set boundaries and consequences when their children are misbehaving.”
“What’s great is, the parents see that these techniques work,” Jones said. “They are usually surprised when they see how well they work.”
Jones and Parent Promise’s second Parent Aide Debi Menzer are trained, professionally supervised individuals who provide supportive and educational, in-home services to families at-risk of child abuse and neglect.
Exchange Parent Aides act as mentors and provide intensive support, information, and modeling of effective parenting — all in the home of the family. Services are family centered and focus on:
Parental resilience is developed through teaching problem solving skills, modeling effective parenting, providing 24/7 support and referrals to services.
Knowledge of parenting and child development is encouraged and developed through sharing skills and modeling strategies. Individualized help is provided in the home with the children.
Social connections are developed and fostered through social-support, building the individual relationship and connecting the parents to others through group meetings, activities, and referrals.
Social-emotional competence of children is developed through strengthening of the nurturing capabilities of the family; interaction of parents with the children is observed and modeling is provided for support of the children’s competence.
Ensuring safety of the children, including attention to medical, dental, and mental health care needs, as well as safe housing and freedom from child abuse, neglect, and domestic violence.
The Exchange Parent Aide program has been replicated since 1979 in more than 80 communities throughout 28 states and in Puerto Rico.
Exchange was awarded a Presidential Award from the White House Office of Private Sector Initiatives. The organization is also a charter member of The National Child Abuse Coalition and is a Partner in Prevention with the Children’s Bureau, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.