I am Brenda Plante and I am the Parent Consultant for the Practice Model. My daughter was involved with the Juvenile Justice services in New Hampshire (NH). We were fortunate to work with a very compassionate Juvenile Probation and Parole Officer. He truly listened to us and involved us in the decisions regarding services for our daughter and family. As a result of working together in partnership, we achieved our goal of bringing our daughter back home. That is the hope and dream of every parent whose child or youth end up in placement. This is also the Division for Children Youth and Families (DCYF) goal. Reunification is truly a shared goal that parents and DCYF have in common. I am now a “parent leader” serving as a consultant for DCYF. In my role and capacity I have been privileged to work in the design and development of the New Hampshire Parent Partner Program.
What is the NH Parent Partner Program? This program is being designed to promote parent voice, engagement and leadership. It is our firm believe that Fathers and Mothers bring knowledge and expertise to the table found nowhere else. We value promoting parents as change agents and leaders. We want to hear your voice!
The vision of this program is that fathers and mothers are included and valued as partners in our day to day work with families in New Hampshire. That parent leaders are visibly present serving as a resource to other parents and to staff supporting the mission of the Division.
The Mission of the Program is the following: in partnership-we plan, design, create, manage and sustain programs and strategies to bring the voices of fathers and mothers to create positive changes in child welfare practices and policies to improve the lives of children and youth, increase reunifications, support and strengthen New Hampshire’s families.
Partnering with fathers and mothers is a core strategy aimed at improving our capacity to engage families in NH. One way to do that is to participate in a two day workshop: Better Together with Birth Parents (BTBP). In partnership with the Center for Professional Excellence (CPE), this workshop is facilitated by one birth parent and one staff/ally and includes: shared decision making, communication and providing parents with a forum in which they can express what they need and can offer. Recent workshops were held in Keene, Concord, Seacoast area and Manchester at the Sununu Youth Service Center (SYSC), where parents and staff engaged in activities and dialogues aimed at improving partnership and communication with one another. To date more than 200 parents and professional staff have participated in these Better Together workshops in NH. Parents and professional staff have consistently shared how this has been a life altering experience for them. Parents truly appreciated being able to tell their story, perhaps for the first time, and feeling heard and not judged. Staff have learned invaluable insights and tips on how to respectfully engage parents and work in partnership with them for the safety, permanency, and well being of our children and families.
The Better Together workshops are a core pillar of the Parent Partner Program. DCYF in partnership with parent leaders and CPE will continue to offer these workshops for new and seasoned Child Protection Social Workers and Juvenile Parole and Probation Officers. We have also piloted this methodology with staff and residential treatment facilities. Parents and staff in those settings also loved the BT process. One of our goals this coming year is to work with other key allies and community partners to make this workshop available for other professionals working with families in child protection and juvenile justice services. As a parent leader and a Better Together Facilitator, I love this workshop because it truly empowers parents and staff to build together, partnership tools and strategies that will help us improve relationships so that we can all work better together to improve the lives of children and youth in NH.