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September 2004Vol. 5, No. 7Circle of Parents

Circle of Parents™ is a partnership of Prevent Child Abuse America, the National Family Support Roundtable, and parent leaders dedicated to using the mutual self-help support group model as a means to prevent child abuse and neglect and strengthen families. Under a 4-year grant from the Office on Child Abuse and Neglect (OCAN), Children's Bureau, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, this partnership has developed a formal national network of support groups that seeks to fully honor the principles of mutual respect, equal contribution, and shared leadership.

In addition to developing infrastructure for this national network, project activities have focused on:

  • Establishing new statewide networks. The Circle of Parents program offers three $25,000 grants per year to support the creation of new State networks and has an application process for State networks for which start-up funding is not necessary. Since the beginning of the grant period in 2000, 13 new State networks have become members, bringing the total to 29 networks serving 28 States.
  • Providing mini-grants to local support groups. Each year, $1,000 mini-grants are offered through the State networks to support local groups in reaching out to and serving underserved populations. Examples of supported activities include development of educational and outreach materials, meals, transportation assistance, supplies for children's activities, and training and technical assistance. To date, the project has provided grants to 56 local groups.
  • Offering training and technical assistance. Circle of Parents offers a variety of training and technical assistance services to members. The project has provided three "Train the Trainer" sessions to help network members train support group facilitators in their States. This year, Circle of Parents also is offering a series of technical assistance conference calls on topics suggested by State and local members. Selected topics have included working with families in the military, involving fathers, training support group facilitators and children's program staff, and working with Hispanic families. Children's Bureau Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention (CBCAP) grantees have participated in this series during the last 2 years.
  • Developing support materials. New materials available to members include a parent handbook, outreach brochure, and tip sheets (in English and Spanish); parent leadership video; facilitators' manual; and children's program manual.

Other efforts include development of network standards and principles for self-help and mutual support groups, a self-assessment process for State networks, and a participatory action research model for evaluating project activities. Each parent leader and member organization participates fully in the work of Circle of Parents, including strategic planning, implementing, and evaluating all partnership activities. A national Parents as Leaders team, formed in 2001, ensures the parent voice is valued and informs all project activities.

Circle of Parents is now working toward becoming its own nonprofit organization beginning in October 2004, when the OCAN grant ends. For more information about Circle of Parents, visit the website at or contact Cynthia Savage, Project Manager, at 312.662.3520.

Note: This program was funded by the Children's Bureau, Grant #90-CA-1668. This article is part of a series highlighting successful Children's Bureau Discretionary Grant-funded projects around the country, emerging from official Children's Bureau site visits.