Parent Engagement and Self-Advocacy (PESA)

Scientific Rating:
Not able to be Rated
See scale of 1-5
Child Welfare System Relevance Level:
See descriptions of 3 levels

About This Program

The information in this program outline is provided by the program representative and edited by the CEBC staff. Parent Engagement and Self-Advocacy (PESA) has been reviewed by the CEBC in the area of: Parent Partner Programs for Families Involved in the Child Welfare System, but lacks the necessary research evidence to be given a Scientific Rating.

Target Population: Birth parents, foster parents, and caseworkers of children ages 10-17 who are in foster care and candidates for reunification

For parents/caregivers of children ages: 10 – 17

Brief Description

PESA is an adaptation of Columbia University’s Parent Empowerment Program (PEP) and the Building a Better Future Program developed by Sandra Jimenez and Naomi Weinstein as a Family-to-Family Initiative of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. PESA helps birth parents, foster parents, and caseworkers work together to address the mental health needs of youth in foster care.

Program Goals:

The overall goals for Parent Engagement and Self-Advocacy (PESA) are:

  • Improve collaboration between case workers, foster parents, and birth parents
  • Increase knowledge about child mental health issues facing youth in child welfare
  • Improve the ability of case workers, foster parents,and birth parents to advocate for the mental health needs of children in their care

Essential Components

Essential components of Parent Engagement and Self-Advocacy (PESA) include:

  • Having 12-15 participants per group
  • Having each group include a birth parent advocate, foster parent advocate, and caseworker as group facilitators
  • Requiring a 3-day training for group facilitators followed by 12 consultation calls
  • Requiring mandatory adherence to manual
  • Requiring a representation of birth parents, foster parents, and caseworkers in each group

The manual is composed of 10 chapters covering the following topic areas:

  • Chapter 1: Introduction to the PESA Manual
  • Chapter 2: Understanding the Child Welfare System
  • Chapter 3: Understanding and Coping with Emotions
  • Chapter 4: Building Communication Skills
  • Chapter 5: Getting Organized for Effective Meetings
  • Chapter 6: Understanding Youth Development and Reactions to Change
  • Chapter 7: Youth Mental Health Issues: Diagnosis and Treatment
  • Chapter 8: The Mental Health System of Care: What to Expect and How to Prepare
  • Chapter 9: Services and Options Through the School System
  • Chapter 10: Making Advocacy Work

Parent/Caregiver Services

Parent Engagement and Self-Advocacy (PESA) directly provides services to parents/caregivers and addresses the following:

  • Parents or foster parents of youth in the foster care system

Delivery Setting

This program is typically conducted in a(n):

  • Community Agency


This program does not include a homework component.


Parent Engagement and Self-Advocacy (PESA) does not have materials available in a language other than English.

Resources Needed to Run Program

The typical resources for implementing the program are:

  • Audiovisual (LCD Projector and screen)
  • Group facilitators (birth parent advocate, foster parent advocate and caseworker)
  • Room large enough for 12-15 people

Minimum Provider Qualifications

Group facilitators should have some prior experience running groups and comfort with public speaking.

Education and Training Resources

There is a manual that describes how to implement this program, and there is training available for this program.

Training Contact:
Training is obtained:


Number of days/hours:

3 days

Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research

This program has been reviewed and it was determined that this program lacks the type of published, peer-reviewed research that meets the CEBC criteria for a scientific rating of 1 – 5. Therefore, the program has been given the classification of "NR - Not able to be Rated." It was reviewed because it was identified by the topic expert as a program being used in the field, or it is being marketed and/or used in California with children receiving services from child welfare or related systems and their parents/caregivers. Some programs that are not rated may have published, peer-reviewed research that does not meet the above stated criteria or may have eligible studies that have not yet been published in the peer-reviewed literature. For more information on the "NR - Not able to be Rated" classification, please see the Scientific Rating Scale.

Child Welfare Outcomes: Not Specified

Currently, there are no published, peer-reviewed research studies for Parent Engagement and Self-Advocacy (PESA).


No reference materials are currently available for Parent Engagement and Self-Advocacy (PESA).

Contact Information

Name: Lisa Hunter Romanelli, PhD
Agency/Affiliation: The REACH Institute
Phone: (212) 947-7322 x227
Fax: (212) 947-7400

Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: June 2014

Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: July 2015

Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: June 2010