Parenting a young child can be tough in the best circumstances. But overlay poverty, inequity, and concerns about employment and education on top of it, and parenting a young child can seem overwhelming.
That’s why Nationwide Children’s Hospital and its partners have begun a neighborhood-specific parenting initiative called the Proud Linden Parent Program. It takes evidence-based, positive parenting strategies and contextualizes them with the concerns and challenges that families in Linden may face.
“Some families are struggling with housing, or they really need resources that traditional positive parenting programs don’t focus on,” said Whitney Raglin Bignall, PhD, a pediatric psychologist who works at Nationwide Children’s Linden Primary Care Center. “Many of the principles are the same as you find in positive parenting programs. We talk about family routines, or discipline, or praising children. But we also talk about the real-world situations that these families face in Linden, and how to address them.”
The curriculum is based on the Chicago Parent Program, which was validated in an urban, racially diverse, low-income population. Many of the parents in the Linden program are identified through the Linden Primary Care Center, where 75% of patients are Black and 12% are Latino.
Dr. Raglin Bignall guides the program, “but I am not up there telling people how to parent,” she says. The 11-session program (with a separate graduation) is heavily discussion-based and respectful of parent opinions and values. It often begins with questions like “What goals do you have for yourself?” or “Where do you see your child in five years?”
The parents also have access to the Linden Primary Care Center’s community health worker, an expert in connecting people to resources they need.
Parents of children ages 1-8 are eligible. Dr. Raglin Bignall and her team recognize that it’s not easy to ask busy, stressed parents to commit to three months of classes, so they try to remove every barrier possible. They serve dinner. They have child care – so far, led by Akua Amponsah, MD, medical lead at the Linden Primary Care Center and associate chief for population health in the Division of Primary Care Pediatrics (known affectionately in the community as “Dr. A”).
“The kids love playing together. They love seeing Dr. A. The parents get to have a pediatrician as their child care provider,” says Dr. Raglin Bignall. “Parents and families really end up wanting to do this and are sad once it’s over.”
But one of the great benefits of the Proud Linden Parent Program is that it helps build a community of parents, she says. These parents now know other parents that they can support, or who can support them. In fact, a program graduate is now the community health worker for the Linden Primary Care Center.
The program’s fourth cohort begins in May. The program has already moved from the Linden Primary Care Center to the Linden Community Center, and Dr. Raglin Bignall’s ongoing goal is for Proud Linden Parent Program to feel like an effort that is invested in the community.
“We want to continue to build something that feels self-sustaining, so that members of this neighborhood are helping each other and helping themselves,” she said.