Parent Focus Group Takeaways: Morningside Parent Engagement Collaborative

PEC_Blog2In 2014-2015, the Morningside Parent Engagement Collaborative (PEC) served more than 200 families and impacted over 450 children in the low-income Fort Worth neighborhood of Morningside. Six local nonprofit agencies offered a diverse array of early education and parent engagement programming targeted to families with children ages 0-5. (Click here to read a detailed summary of the PEC’s first-year results.) Following the first year of programming, the PEC funding partners – comprised of The Rainwater Charitable Foundation, The Morris Foundation, and The Miles Foundation – conducted a focus group to solicit parent participant feedback.

Following are the high-level takeaways regarding the structure, execution, and content of the PEC’s parent focus group discussions.

Parent Focus Group Structure & Participation The PEC leadership team organized two parent focus groups, one conducted in English and one in Spanish. The purpose was to obtain parents’ ideas on how to impact more families through the PEC and effectively address parent engagement needs in the community, as well as garner candid feedback about their experiences while participating in the program.

A total of 20 parents participated in the focus groups – eleven in the Spanish session and nine in the English session.

Discussion Topics A trained bilingual facilitator guided both focus group conversations around the following topics:

  • Best aspects of the programs
  • Key concerns about the programs
  • Friends’ and neighbors’ preferences in a parenting program
  • Strategies for increasing participant numbers in future years
  • Ideas for continuing years of programming for involved parents
  • How to increase feelings of connectedness to the community
  • Efforts to keep parents involved going forward

Methodology The planning process was a collaborative effort between the PEC funding leadership team, agency staff, and an independent evaluation team. A focus group facilitator was also enlisted who had considerable research and counseling experience. This collective team provided input on a predetermined set of discussion questions focused on topics relevant both to the parents and the PEC planning process.

A bilingual scribe recorded detailed notes during the focus group discussions, which were shared and analyzed among the PEC leadership team to help inform future years of PEC programming.

Feedback & Key Takeaways Several common themes and constructive recommendations emerged from the parent focus group discussions. These insights included:

  1. Parents want to learn by engaging in activities with their children. Parents in the focus groups emphasized their desire to participate in activities with their children, whether building a toy together, learning how to read with their child, or experiencing a new place.
  1. Parents appreciate professional expertise in key areas. Parents noted the benefits of “lectures” from guest speakers on certain topics, including child development, anger management and discipline, personal finances, and healthy relationship building.
  1. Parents are already looking ahead. Even with children age 0-5 in the home, PEC parents expressed an interest in learning about issues affecting older children, such as dealing with school challenges, bullies, and stress. They also wanted tips on helping their children graduate and go to college.
  1. Programs specifically targeted to fathers are important. Parents noted the value in having fathers as a part of the PEC programming and engaged in the schools. Sports activities were suggested as a great way to bring families together and engage dads in the program.
  1. Program scheduling impacts attendance. Many parents agreed that Thursday night programs interfered with their children’s school and weeknight bedtime schedules. They suggested Friday night programming as an alternative, which they said could likely attract more working parents.
  1. A multi-faceted approach is needed to reach more parents. PEC parents were willing to recruit others to participate, but they need the tools to do so. Suggestions included flyers with parent testimonials, a short online video, advertising at local churches or school fairs, t-shirts, or hosting a social event.

Conclusion One of the most encouraging takeaways from the PEC focus groups was parents’ enthusiasm regarding the PEC program overall, and their interest in staying engaged and recruiting additional parents to be a part of the PEC in the future.

In one year’s time, a community of engaged parents in the Morningside neighborhood emerged that was willing to:

  1. Regularly participate in parenting programs;
  1. Openly communicate with parent peers regarding successes and challenges; and
  1. Serve as advocates for the program moving forward.

While the PEC will continue to evolve and improve based on critical feedback from Morningside parents and community members, the PEC leadership is proud of the support system and parent leadership that was demonstrated throughout the first year of the PEC program.

For more information on the PEC or to get involved, please contact Jay McCall at 817.420.9914 or