A unique public/private partnership strengthens parenting education

“Oregon’s pioneering spirit is putting us on the map once again,” says Denise Rennekamp proudly. “Our contract from the Oregon Community Foundation enables us to create an infrastructure for parenting education programs in Oregon that addresses research, evaluation, coordination, technical assistance, professional development, and methods to share best practices.”

(L-R) Michaella Sektnan, Sally Bowman and Denise Rennekamp completed the Parenting Education Mapping Project last year and found that unstable funding undermines the availability and consistency of programs in Oregon.

According to Denise, this is likely a “first” in the country.  It’s a unique model of private and public funding, linked with small local nonprofits – all with a goal of creating effective parenting education services that make a difference in children’s futures and society’s long-term health. “What makes it unique is the inclusion of all aspects of parenting education programs – from research to evaluation,” explains Denise who is parenting education coordinator in the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences and co-principal investigator on the grant at OSU.  The Oregon Community Foundation (OCF), The Ford Family Foundation and Oregon State University are collaborating on the project, creating an extraordinary mix of experience, creativity, and vision in parenting education experts.

The Oregon Community Foundation Collaborative will provide annual grants of $80,000-$90,000 over three years to each of six regional parenting education “hubs” in Coos/Curry, Deschutes/Crook/Jefferson, Douglas, Hood River/Wasco, Linn/Benton, and Wallowa/Baker counties.  Although the initial funding is for 12 counties, the Collaborative will hold a conference in October inviting the other 24 counties to learn about best practices, coordination of parenting education programs and the process for becoming a hub.

“We know there are excellent parenting education programs in Oregon, but they are underfunded and parents often don’t know how to find them,” says Mary Louise McClintock, OCF Early Childhood Program Director.  In a recent OSU study “A Snapshot of Parenting Education in Oregon” Denise Rennekamp, Sally Bowman and Michaella Sektnan found that unstable funding undermines the availability and consistency of Oregon parenting programs, often leaving rural areas underserved.

“This new project will enable us to create an infrastructure for parenting education in Oregon that builds on best practices across the state and answers specific local needs,” says Denise.  Support for counties may include needs assessments, identification of evidence-based programs, connection with current research, professional development, and ideas for implementation and sustainability strategies.  Denise is coordinating OSU’s responsibilities in the initiative as part of her role in the college’s Hallie Ford Center for Healthy Children and Families where she is affiliated with the Healthy Development in Early Childhood Research Core.