When Parents Lead, Children Succeed

Leaders Align Around Education for New Parents

Leaders Align Around Education for New Parents

Rick Stephens
Elane V. Scott
Featured Guest:
Doug Porter

Dear Stakeholder Leaders,

Old habits die hard, even when you aren't getting the results you think you should be getting. This is what was going through CEO Doug Porter’s mind as he was planning the opening of a new Ronald McDonald House, in Oak Lawn, Illinois this year. "We do a great job of helping parents in crisis, but what else can we do now to make a difference for kids and families to help them possibly avoid crisis in the future?"

It’s broadly understood that the primary goal of Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) is to provide a ‘home away from home’ for the families of critically ill and injured children while they undergo hospital treatment. Additionally, RMHC actively provides college scholarships for students who are talented academically, but of limited financial means.

But as society has changed over time, Doug saw the need for going a step further. He came up with a new idea rooted in the immense value of helping new parents to understand new healthy parenting habits, such as how to promote excellent brain development of their newborn, and the value of understanding more about their community and how it can provide support. These were all ideas garnered from his reading of Birth2Work’s first book, The System, Igniting the Soul of Commerce.

Why not do something different? Why not take some of the resources RMHC had been investing at one end of a young person’s academic career, such as for college scholarships, and put those resources toward educating parents, who could then make an even bigger difference in a child’s early development and academic performance later on? After consultation with his board, the idea took enthusiastic hold, and a whole community of stakeholder leaders, with Oak Lawn RMHC leadership and doctors and staff from Hope Children's Hospital across the street in the lead, began gearing up for classes.

Doug called upon Birth2Work for collaboration. After our first meeting he was determined to put in place a plan that would start at the beginning with new parents and community stakeholders to do two things: 1) Help deliver new information that their own parents probably don’t know about child development from a very early age; and 2) Align community leaders from every economic sector in the area around shared values for creating successful community members for the future. With these groups in alignment, sharing a common vision, the goal is to make it more likely that children will be able to achieve success in school and out, over time.

Parents working with their children to do better is not a new idea. Calling out to community leadership from an entire community to build a conscious parent support network and align around a shared vision from scratch, is. In a world where technology has inserted itself in the lives of families, it is necessary to talk about new ways of interacting and growing up. Sustainable, long term development of young people into capable adults begins with a vision and expectation of their success at birth. Then, throughout the child’s life, community organizations and institutions—from the children’s museum, to the city fire department, local medical professionals, educators, and others—provide support through formal and informal learning, encouragement and outreach that is consistent and created to support all young people and their parents. This is the definition of long-term, sustainable community leadership. Within the context of our new joint venture, we will open the door to connecting new parents to the resources available to them within the Oak Lawn community, help them to forge relationships with one another as new parents, and thus take a positive step towards preparing people for a role in the future of their community right from day one.

Elane V. Scott