Parent Connectors Program

About This Program

Target Population: Parents/caregivers of children or adolescents (ages 6 to18) at-risk for or having a serious emotional disorder.

For parents/caregivers of children ages: 6 – 18

Program Overview

The Parent Connectors Program is a parent-to-parent support program delivered through weekly telephone calls to families of youth with emotional disturbance (ED) or at risk for emotional disturbance with the aim of improving academic and emotional functioning in youth.

Veteran peers are parents who have a child who has ED and who have had a history of relative success in negotiating the school and mental health systems, Veteran peers are recruited to serve as Parent Connectors (PCs). Once recruited, the PCs participate in a 16-hour training program consisting of didactic sessions, role playing, and sharing of experiences. Each PC is assigned approximately ten families to contact for about an hour each week by telephone and the PCs meet as a group weekly with a mental health professional (called a PC Coach) for supervision, support and to share experiences. The intervention is limited to 9 months.

Program Goals

The goals of the Parent Connectors Program are:

  • Become fully engaged as partners with their children’s education and social service systems
  • Increase perceived benefit of engaging with the school
  • Increase engagement in the services their child receives
  • Increase positive social support
  • Decrease caregiving strain
  • Increase the level of empowerment
  • Increase engagement of their youth in mental health services
  • Increase attendance of their youth in school

Essential Components

The essential components of the Parent Connectors Program include:

  • Provision of emotional support, informational support, and increasing positive attitude toward engagement in services using components of the theory of planned behavior
  • Offered by veteran (peer) parents called a Parent Connector (PC) who carries a case-load of about 10 families
  • No direct contact by the Parent Connectors (PCs) with providers that are serving the parents/caregivers assigned to them
  • Delivered weekly on the telephone for approximately one hour at a time at the convenience of the target parent
  • Weekly face-to-face group supervision of PCs by a trained supervisor with clinical skills, called a Parent Connector Coach
  • Completion of a Family Contact Log describing the date, length, and content of every call a PC has with each family
  • Competed Family Contact Logs used in supervision by the Parent Connector Coach and subsequently entered into a computer program to monitor fidelity

Program Delivery

Parent/Caregiver Services

Parent Connectors Program directly provides services to parents/caregivers and addresses the following:

  • Have a child at-risk for or who has been placed in a school program for children who have emotional disabilities, are disruptive and possibly two or more grade levels behind in math and reading; may experience high levels of caregiver strain, blame, and social isolation; may experience little emotional support in their social environment; may feel they have little control over their lives and that of their children; may perceive little or no benefit in engaging with their child’s teachers or mental health providers; may be overwhelmed by the school and community service provision process and have little understanding of how to navigate the special education process (e.g., IEPs)

Recommended Intensity:

One-hour phone call once a week

Recommended Duration:

9 months

Delivery Setting

This program is typically conducted in a(n):

  • Telehealth (Online, Telephone, Video, etc.)

Homework

This program does not include a homework component.

Resources Needed to Run Program

The typical resources for implementing the program are:

  • A Parent Connector Coach to work about 15 hours a week supervising Parent Connectors (PCs)
  • A room where the PC Coach can meet with PCs on a weekly basis.
  • Parents willing to be PCs
  • Phones and phone plans to make weekly calls by PCs
  • Printed “Family Contact Logs” for PCs
  • Access to a computer and staff member to enter fidelity data weekly into provided tracking program

Education and Training

Prerequisite/Minimum Provider Qualifications

The PC Coach should have clinical experience with parents/caregivers of youth with or at risk for emotional challenges and be “family friendly.”

PCs should have a child that has been in the social services and relatively successful in navigating the service system.

Education and Training Resources

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

  • Duchnowski, A. J., & Kutash, K. (2012). The Parent Connectors Program: A resource guide for parent connectors. Author.
  • Duchnowski, A. J., & Kutash, K. (2013). The Parent Connectors Program: PC coach manual. Author.
  • Kutash, K., & Duchnowski, A. J. (2012). The Parent Connectors Program: Administration manual. Author.
Training Contacts:
Training is obtained:

Training is typically held onsite at the trainees’ organization, or in a location convenient to the trainees.

Number of days/hours:

Parent Connectors lesson-based curriculum for PC Coaches and PCs, provided by program developers or certified trainers, in face-to-face training to trainees, which includes:

  • 5-hour PC Coach training course delivered in person or by phone prior to PC training course
  • 16-hour PC training course
  • Written assessment of PCs before and after training
  • 6-hour PC booster session about five months following the initial training

Implementation Information

Pre-Implementation Materials

There are pre-implementation materials to measure organizational or provider readiness for Parent Connectors Program as listed below:

Program Developers have developed a “planning sheet” to use with agencies who are interested in implementing the program. This planning sheet is used to direct phone conversations with interested agencies and is currently only in draft form. Additionally, The Parent Connectors Program: Administration Manual is sent to agency staff who might be interested in implementing the PC program. It provides a description of the necessary components to be implemented.

Formal Support for Implementation

There is formal support available for implementation of Parent Connectors Program as listed below:

Four 2-hour phone or videoconferencing follow-up consultations provided 1, 3, 6, and 8 months postinitiation for PC Coach and Parent Connectors, which includes:

  • Phone calls that involve reviewing the implementation data
  • Listening to PC supervision meetings
  • Discussions with PC Coach to give feedback on supervision meetings

Fidelity Measures

There are fidelity measures for Parent Connectors Program as listed below:

A Family Contact Log is completed by PCs for every weekly contact they have with a family. The content of the form is in a checklist format. These completed forms are used in supervision to ensure adherence to the program model. All the completed forms are entered into a computer program so that adherence across time and PC can be monitored.

Training on how to complete the Family Contact Log occurs during the PC training sessions and is also described in the PC manual, The Parent Connectors Program: A Resource Guide for Parent Connectors. The reports generated from the Family contact Log are also described in the administration manual and in the PC Coach manual.

Contact Krista Kutash (Kutash@usf.edu) or Kristin Hurley (Kristin.hurley@unl.edu) to obtain copies of the instrument or manuals.

Implementation Guides or Manuals

There are no implementation guides or manuals for Parent Connectors Program.

Implementation Cost

There are no studies of the costs of Parent Connectors Program.

Research on How to Implement the Program

Research has not been conducted on how to implement Parent Connectors Program.

Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research

Child Welfare Outcome: Child/Family Well-Being

Kutash, K., Duchnowski, A. J., Green, A. L., & Ferron, J. M. (2011). Supporting parents who have youth with emotional disturbances through a parent-to-parent support program: A proof of concept study using random assignment. Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research, 38(5), 412–427. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10488-010-0329-5

Type of Study: Randomized controlled trial
Number of Participants: 115

Population:

  • Age — Caregiver: Not specified; Youth: PC Mean=14.43 years; Comparison Mean=14.82 years
  • Race/Ethnicity — Caregiver: Not specified; Youth: PC - Black/non-Hispanic (46.6%), White/non- Hispanic (27.6%), Hispanic (12.1%), Native American (1.7%), and Other (12.1%), Comparison: Black/non-Hispanic (66.7%), White/non-Hispanic (20.4%), Hispanic (9.3%), and Other (3.7
  • Gender — Caregivers: Not specified; Youth: Not specified
  • Status — Participants were parents of youth with emotional disturbance issues.

Location/Institution: Not Specified

Summary: (To include comparison groups, outcomes, measures, notable limitations)
The purpose of the current study was to evaluate the feasibility of implementing Parent Connectors Program for families of youth with emotional disturbance (ED) who are served in special education programs. Participants were randomly assigned to one of two groups: the Parent Connectors Program group (i.e., intervention group) or the Comparison group (i.e., control group). Measures utilized include the Vanderbilt Mental Health Services Efficacy Questionnaire(VMHSEQ), the Family Empowerment Scale (FES)—Family Subscale, the Caregiver Strain Questionnaire (CGSQ), the Support Functions Scale (SFS)—Short Version, Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ), the Brief Impairment Scale (BIS), the Wide Range Achievement Test 3 (WRAT3,) and the Ohio Youth Problems, Functioning, and Satisfaction Scales—Hopefulness Subscale. Results indicated that Parent Connectors (PCs) interacted with families for 5 hours spread out over 32 weeks of the school year. These interactions were viewed as positive by parents in the Parent Connectors Program group and the families were highly satisfied with the program. Results also indicated that the parents in the Parent Connectors Program group obtained needed mental health services and family empowerment. Students whose parents were in the Parent Connectors Program group received almost twice as many minutes of mental health services compared to students whose parents were in the comparison group. Additionally, students whose parents were in the Parent Connectors Program group attended school for 17 more days on average than those with parents in the comparison group, almost a month of school days. In addition, there was a moderate effect in reading improvement for students whose parents were in the Parent Connectors Program group. Limitations include small sample size; sample was obtained from one school district rather than from a nationally representative group; attrition of parents who dropped out of intervention group; and lack of follow-up.

Length of postintervention follow-up: None.

Kutash, K., Duchnowski, A. J., Green, A., & Ferron, J. (2013). Effectiveness of the Parent Connectors Program: Results from a randomized trial. School Mental Health, 5(4), 192–208. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12310-013-9106-4

Type of Study: Randomized controlled trial
Number of Participants: 112

Population:

  • Age — Caregiver: Not specified, Youth: Mean=13.12 years
  • Race/Ethnicity — Caregiver: Not specified; Youth: 50% Black, 28.6% White, 8.9% Hispanic, and 6.2% Other
  • Gender — Caregiver: Not specified, Youth: 83% Male
  • Status — Participants include parent–student dyads recruited from a large school district.

Location/Institution: 23 middle schools or special centers with self-contained special education classrooms for students identified with emotional disturbances (ED)

Summary: (To include comparison groups, outcomes, measures, notable limitations)
This purpose of this study is to discuss the efficacy of the Parent Connectors Program at increasing the engagement of families in the education and treatment of their children who have emotional disturbance (ED). Participants were randomly assigned to either the Parent Connectors Program group (i.e., intervention group) or the comparison group. Measures utilized include the Expected Benefit Mental Health and Expected Benefit Education scales, the Social Norms Mental Health and Social Norms Education scales, the Vanderbilt Mental Health Services Efficacy Questionnaire (VMHSEQ)—Short Version, Educational Efficacy Questionnaire (EEQ), the Special Education Elementary Longitudinal Study (SEELS), the Frequency of Positive Communication scale, the Caregiver Strain Questionnaire (CGSQ), the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ), and the Engagement in Child’s Education at Home scale. Results indicated that parents in the Parent Connectors Program reported positive program effects including increased perceived benefit of engagement, more engagement in their child’s services, and a more positive response to social norms. Students of these parents received more mental health services, were enrolled more days in school, and were suspended fewer times and for fewer days. Limitations include small sample size, findings may not generalize to more affluent or culturally heterogeneous samples, there was no direct measure of parent engagement in school activities or interactions with teachers, and lack of follow-up.

Length of postintervention follow-up: None.

January, S. A., Hurley, K. D., Stevens, A. L., Kutash, K., Duchnowski, A. J., & Pereda, N. (2016). Evaluation of a community-based peer-to-peer support program for parents of at-risk youth with emotional and behavioral difficulties. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 25(3), 836–844. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-015-0271-y

Type of Study: One-group pretest-posttest
Number of Participants: 139

Population:

  • Age — Parents: 18.00–67.25 years (Mean=40.60 years), Youth: Mean=11.07 years
  • Race/Ethnicity — Parents: 70.5% Hispanic/Latino, 21.7% White, 3.9% African-American, and 3.9 % Asian; Youth: Not specified
  • Gender — Parents: 92.8% Female; Youth 55.8% Male
  • Status — Participants were parents of youth with emerging behavioral and emotional difficulties.

Location/Institution: Not specified

Summary: (To include comparison groups, outcomes, measures, notable limitations)
The current study evaluated Parent Connectors Program delivered via telephone to parents of youth with emerging behavioral and emotional difficulties. Measures utilized include Protective Factors Survey (PFS). Results indicated that the Parent Connectors Program was delivered as intended and resulted in increased parental perceived social support and concrete support over time. Furthermore, higher levels of parental participation and intervention adherence were associated with increases in perceived social support. Limitations include small sample size, lack of randomization of participants, lack of control group, and lack of follow-up.

Length of postintervention follow-up: None.

Additional References

Kutash, K., Cross, B., Madias, A., Duchnowski, A., & Green, A. (2012). Description of a fidelity implementation system: An example from a community-based children’s mental health program. Journal of Child and Family Studies. 21(6) 1028–1040. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-012-9565-5

Duppong Hurley, K., January, S. A., & Lambert, M. (2017). Using caregiver strain to predict participation in a peer support intervention for parents of youth with emotional or behavioral needs. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 25(3), 170–177. https://doi.org/10.1177/1063426616649163

Weiss, C. L., Blizzard, A. M., Vaughan, C., Sydnor-Diggs, T., Edwards, S., & Stephan, S. H. (2015). Supporting the transition from inpatient hospitalization to school. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 24(2), 371–383. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chc.2014.11.009

Contact Information

Krista Kutash, PhD
Title: Professor Emeritus
Agency/Affiliation: University of South Florida
Website: go.unl.edu/parentconnectors
Email:
Phone: (813) 995-4195
Albert J. Duchnowski, PhD
Title: Co-developer, Professor Emeritus
Agency/Affiliation: University of South Florida
Website: go.unl.edu/parentconnectors
Email:
Phone: (727) 859-2034
Kristin Duppong Hurley, PhD
Title: Co-Director, Research Professor
Agency/Affiliation: University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Department: Academy for Child and Family Well Being
Website: go.unl.edu/parentconnectors
Email:
Phone: (402) 472-5501

Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: June 2019

Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: February 2020

Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: February 2020