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Parent Leadership Development

Effective Advocacy Skills Development Opportunities for Parents

Overview: The Parent Leadership Development initiative sought to increase parents’ participation in the behavioral health workforce by helping them develop skills necessary to become more effective caregivers, providers of peer support, and advocates for systems change. This was accomplished by adapting a parent leadership curriculum, offering it across the state, and linking parent graduates to support groups and advocacy opportunities.

Need: While a system of professional services is available for Connecticut children and youth with emotional and behavioral problems, parents remain the principal caregivers. However, they receive little education about how to access services, and other supports for their children, advocate for and support other children and families, and influence the behavioral health system of care within the state. Achieving a family-driven system of care requires increased training and support for parents in both informal and formal workforce roles, improved linkages of parents to peer support opportunities, and a greater presence of parents in the boards, committees, and advisory councils that shape the system of care.


  1. To increase the ability of parents of children with emotional and behavioral problems to advocate for their children, for other children and families, and for improvements in the system of behavioral health services within Connecticut.
  2. To connect parents to specific opportunities to provide and receive support from other parents, receive additional skills training, and advocate for systems change. The advocacy role includes membership on relevant boards, councils and advisory committees.

Activities: Following a comprehensive review of parent leadership development approaches throughout the country, the Agents of Transformation (AOT) curriculum developed by a family advocacy organization in Rhode Island was selected as the foundation for training parents in Connecticut. Through a competitive process, Families United for Children’s Mental Health, a parent-run training and advocacy organization, was chosen to manage the project. With the assistance of the developer of Agents of Transformation, the curriculum was adapted to Connecticut, translated into Spanish, and subsequently revised based on experience with its use in Connecticut. A team of diverse parent leaders was recruited to serve as the lead trainers to deliver the curriculum statewide. A partnership was developed with the state and local children’s behavioral health systems and other statewide family support organizations throughout Connecticut to help identify and recruit parents to participate in the training, in regional family support activities, and as members of boards and committees. The support offered to participants included stipends for participation, transportation assistance, and provision of children’s activities while parents were in training. A Statewide Family Leadership Team consisting of parents and other caregivers helped lead and coordinate parent activities regionally. A Peer Mentor training curriculum was also adapted and offered in Connecticut, increasing the capacity of parents to offer organized peer support to other families. A peer mentor volunteer program was created in partnership with local systems of care and other family support organizations to facilitate the provision of peer support.

Results: The Agents of Transformation curriculum was delivered to over 260 diverse parents and family caregivers representing children and youth with behavioral health needs within 14 communities. At least 175 participants completed all six sessions of the training. Ongoing family support network activities were held in Bridgeport, Meriden, New Haven, Hartford, Waterbury, and in New London. All graduates of AOT and Peer Mentor training were invited to participate in these groups, as were other parents and caregivers. Parents were recruited to serve on local and state boards, including the Children’s Behavioral Health Advisory Council, subcommittees of the Connecticut Behavioral Health Partnership Oversight Council, and as members of teams reviewing provider agency proposals for state contracts to deliver services. The Peer Mentor training curriculum was delivered to over 37 family leaders.

Current Status: The Agents of Transformation curriculum remains available at no charge to agencies within Connecticut that wish to offer it to parents. New parent support structures developed through this initiative are being integrated into and supported by local systems of care, family advocacy organizations, and provider organizations. It is anticipated that one of these, the Partnering with Parents Network, will help connect parent leadership training graduates to opportunities to deliver peer support to other families and participate in diverse advocacy roles and activities.

Contact Information

Michael Hoge, Ph.D.
CT Workforce Collaborative on Behavioral Health

T: 203-785-5629
F: 203-785-2028