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"LEADER" Online: Spring/Summer 1999

Padres Activos de Hoy Finds a Home in Florida

by Virginia Murray

Following retirement from IBM after 30 years, Peter Perez thought he would spend the rest of his days playing golf in the Florida sun. So what's he doing making coffee in the Parent Resource room of an elementary school in Palm Springs?

Not long after retirement, Perez returned to school to earn his Masters in Special Education, which led to a position at C.O. Taylor/Kirklane Elementary School in Palm Springs, Florida. Taylor/ Kirklane is a Title I school. This puts the school in line to receive federal funds for various opportunities, including having a Parent Liaison. Perez took on this special assignment in 1996, and the programs he's been using for parents have been a Haitian Creole version of Active Parenting Today devised by the district, and the new Spanish version, Padres Activos de Hoy.

“It's been a tremendous success,” he reports. “Other programs aren't bad, but for some reason the parents really enjoy Active Parenting Today.”

Part of the reason is that, while other programs tend to focus on academics, “Active Parenting Today really helps parents to help their children in day-to-day situations.”

Perez has several reasons for appreciating Padres Activos de Hoy. For one, it's “not just a direct translation of the English version. Parents feel very comfortable with it.”

“Dr. Popkin has been sensitive to the fact that people want to be able to relate to what they are seeing, rather than just fitting themselves in.”

Perez acknowledges that translation is always a challenge when dealing with Spanish speakers. At his schools there are parents from several Latin countries, including Puerto Rico, Cuba, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico. The Spanish translation of Padres Activos, he says, “has really hit it right on.”

Perez publicizes the workshops by sending home flyers in the three major languages used by his students: English, Haitian Creole and Spanish. The state provides an interpreter for Haitian Creole parenting classes (which have around 30 parents per group), but the bilingual Perez is able to handle the others on his own.

Since the Spanish program is so new, the number of parents attending groups has been low so far. Part of the problem, notes Perez, is that “the Spanish parents for the most part have two or three jobs and just don't have time to come to a class. Culturally, too, mothers are the ones who are expected to take care of child-rearing. My goal is to get more fathers involved. If they work at night, I'll have classes in the morning, or on Saturdays.”

Another way Perez reaches out to parents is through a Wednesday-morning program called A Second Cup of Coffee. It is essentially an open house in which parents are invited to the Parent Resource Room for coffee and doughnuts. “It's very important for me to develop a relationship with the parents,” Perez says. “Many had negative experiences with school and teachers in the past, and they've had enough of that.” The Second Cup event offers an informal opportunity for parents just to drop by and chat with staff members. “It helps,” notes Perez, “that my background is roughly the same as theirs, so I know where they are coming from.”

And that, he says, is one of the most important keys to the success of a parenting group. “If a facilitator is willing to share personal experiences, rather than just saying `this is the right way and this is the wrong way,' the parents are more open to listening.”

Reprinted from Leader magazine.
Copyright 1998 by Active Parenting Publishers, Inc.