Parent Engagement and Self-Advocacy (PESA)

About This Program

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

Program Overview

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

Program Delivery

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

Recommended Intensity:

One 2-3 hour session per week

Recommended Duration:

5-6 weeks

Delivery Setting

This program is typically conducted in a(n):

  • Community Agency


This program does not include a homework component.

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

Education and Training

Prerequisite/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

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

Additional References

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

Contact Information

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