Parent Leadership at FamilyWise

An old favorite will make a return at FamilyWise this year. Lisa Deputie is rebooting the Parent Leadership program, an initiative that empowered parents for close to 10 years at MCCC (Minnesota Communities Caring for Children). The program is actually what led Lisa to her current role as the Metro Director of Prevention Initiatives. 

“I was part of the first cohort of parent leaders within that Parent Leadership program,” she said. Like many parents, she entered the program resigned to the status quo. “I came in feeling that my voice was not going to enact any change, that my voice would not make a difference in the bigger scope of things.” 

Lisa Deputie, Director of Prevention Initiatives – Twin Cities Metro

Just as in the new version, the first iteration of the program hosted trainings for parents on a variety of topics from community organizing to strategic storytelling to protective factors for families. It was this education and support that helped Lisa develop the confidence that has made her a cornerstone of her own family, community and the FamilyWise staff.

“I have been more empowered to not only have a seat at the table if I’m welcome,” she said, “but, even if I ain’t welcome, to pull my own seat up to the table.” 

Building the confidence of parents as advocates for themselves and their families is part of FamilyWise’s approach across all of the organization’s programs. Barb Sorum, the Director of Prevention Initiatives for Southern Minnesota, sees the Circle of Parents program affect parents in similar ways.  

“I’ve seen a mom come into the Circle of Parents group, and, basically, she cried the whole time,” Barb said. But, with time and support, the woman healed. “Over a period of two years, she had blossomed.” She eventually became the group’s facilitator and earned a degree in social work.  

“Sometimes, we don’t see the strengths in ourselves, and sometimes we need people to point those out,” Barb continued. “If you see something in me that I’m not seeing, please let me know, because that’s really empowering for me.” 

Barb and Lisa envision the new Parent Leadership program at FamilyWise transforming parents into agents of change in their families, their communities and society.  

Barb Sorum, Director of Prevention Initiatives – Southern Region

“If it’s about families, if it’s about children, if it’s about parents, or anything to do with any of that, parents need to be involved,” Barb seconded. “If you’re deciding for families, is there a parent involved? Are there parents on that committee? Are they at the table? Are their voices being heard? Are they part of the planning? The decision-making?”

Lisa believes parents’ input is a much-needed antidote to abstract policymaking. “A lot of times, people that make those decisions and those mandates and that legislation, they have not experienced anything that they’re making decisions on. They’re not going by lived experiences. A lot of them go by educational experiences, what the book says, what data may say. Sometimes, you can’t rely on data because data is just as good as who’s reporting it.” 

Barb agrees, linking the program to a recent national awakening. “I see people taking a stand. [Parents] are demanding a voice in the process. They’re advocating for their kids. They’re advocating for their families. Parents are stepping up.” 

To learn more about the Parent Leadership program, such as how to get involved, contact Lisa Deputie at [email protected]