The three major goals associated with the development of the Precious Minds, New Connections Initiative were to:
Affect the life of every child born in Bandera, Bexar, Comal and Kendall Counties.
The overarching goal of PMNC was to affect the life of every child born in our funding area in a positive manner. Through research and brainstorming activities, we concluded that parenting education was the most effective and efficient approach to achieving this goal. However, in order for parenting education to have the desired outcome we had to ensure that programs encompassed:
- Accessibility. This required that opportunities for participation be offered throughout the four counties and accommodated the schedules of parents. We decided early on that parenting education needed to occur where parents were already gathering – we could not expect them to add another stop to an already tight schedule.
- Diversity. A variety of programs had to be offered to suit the diversity of our target population. One size would not fit all. The characteristics of class format included: home-based vs. center-based; and, short-term vs. long-term. Some parents would want social activities built around the program in order to maximize their time with other parents and thereby increase their support systems, while others would be comfortable with and able to develop their own applications of the information in their relationship with their child. Classes would be offered in both Spanish and English. And, last but not least, we had to also do our best to ensure that fathers and other primary caregivers were included.
- Value. In order to make parenting education a part of our city’s culture, it had to be valuable to the individual parent. Value may be determined by cost; but, by underwriting this initiative, we eliminated cost to the parent. It is often said that people only value what they pay for, but it is probably more accurate to say that people only truly value what they earn. As a result, each program had built into it incentives for attending and completing the course.
- Quality. If the quality of the program was not evident, there would be no value to the parent. We discussed quality in terms of the number of hours of education that would be delivered to each parent; the parent/teacher ratio; the overall assessment of each proposal by our staff in terms of program design, the ability of the organization to follow through on the plan and the potential impact toward our goal - comprehensive and thorough training of educators in each curriculum.
Include as many as possible in the work of PMNC.
Our primary goal was not one that could be accomplished by a few organizations or by only those who were already advocates for very young children. In order to achieve our goal, we had to enlist as many as possible to help us. This would result in the following positive effects:
- Parent Retention. The greatest challenge of this initiative for any grantee would be that of keeping parents in the program. The reasons for dropping out were many, but the two most typical reasons for dropping out were: program lacks value/interest, parents move and the program becomes inconvenient.
- Substance. The curricula selected were based upon research and had been extensively evaluated and shown to be effective with other populations. We believed that these programs were highly substantive and would be easily adapted to area populations. As a result they should be as effective in our community as they had been in others.
In addition to substance as a predictor for retention, each collaboration created a unique model for outreach and use of incentives. By supporting a wide variety of programs that would “fit” a wider variety of parents, PMNC would be far more valuable to our community.
- Mobility. By including many organizations in this Initiative, the number of locations for classes to be held was dramatically increased. Parents were more likely to find a convenient location regardless of which area of town they reside. As a result, if parents moved we would be able to help them locate a comparable class convenient to their new location.
- Network of parent educators. One problem often cited for a program’s demise was the inability to retain good educators. Even if an educator was absent for only a week, the retention of parents could be greatly compromised. By training large groups together, we planned to develop a support network of educators. Such a network would allow for two things: 1) programs would be able to call upon each other for assistance (substitutes) if an educator was ill; and 2) educators would be able to meet regularly to brainstorm, problem solve and share ideas. In terms of ensuring PMNC’s success, educators needed to be supported with additional information and needed to be part of something “bigger” than a single parenting program. Through regularly scheduled network meetings, the educators could develop their own sense of mission and importance to changing the face of San Antonio’s future. The development of the network was considered to be critical to the ongoing success of PMNC.
- Cost efficiency. The wide net approach introduced cost savings in the purchase of curricula, training of educators, bulk rates on incentive packages, and the like.
Set an outstanding example to others through our work.
Finally, our goal was to exemplify the types of programs, in terms of development and evaluation that we encouraged from others. By planning logically and well, working as a team, collecting information and intelligently analyzing it and making sound decisions based upon it, we hoped to set higher standards in our community.