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Dear Debi,
We live in a beach side community. I’m thinking about organizing a group to help keep the beach clean. How can I get my kids, as well as other parents and neighbors, involved?
Janet Bustamante
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
Host
  • Realize your power as a parent
  • Learn about children’s programs & policies
  • Write letters & send emails
  • Encourage other parents to join
Expert Advice
Norman Rosenberg
Norman Rosenberg
Parents Action for Children
When considering how to become active in the community, we need to remember that parents are the experts because we know our children better than anybody else does. We spend more time with them. We’re invested in their development. We’re invested in making sure that they get a good start in life and that they enter school ready to succeed. We are their most important advocates.

There are a lot of issues parents can get involved with, but I think it has less to do with deciding on an issue and more to do with what issue presents itself to us. If we live in a community where we think there isn’t adequate police protection and we’re worried about that, then that becomes the issue that we gravitate towards. If the parks are unclean or if there aren’t adequate pre-K services, then we move towards those issues. It’s not that parents need to look for an issue. In most communities, those issues come to us. The issue that comes to us is the issue that we ought to go after and try to improve and try to work on to make our communities a better, more healthy place for our children and for our families.

It may be that we live in a community where some project will make a difference, like the beach cleanup that Janet talked about in her letter. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be a project. Maybe it’s the availability of medical services in our community or maybe we’re concerned that there aren't adequate pre-kindergarten services. Sometimes it’s a specific discrete project. Sometimes it’s a community-based issue that has broad implications not only for our children, but also for all the children of the community.

The first step to getting involved is doing something. Parenting for many people is a very private and personal experience. We don’t think of ourselves, typically, as advocates. If you ask parents to define their role in life, they will very often say, “We’re just a parent.” They don’t think that they’re stakeholders in the political process. They don’t think they have a right to speak out. But we do. It’s our children. It’s our community. If we’re going to make a difference, the first step is speaking up and speaking out. Look at a problem and explore what needs to happen. Talk to other parents who may share a perception about the importance of that problem. Begin to get people together to think about how we, as a community of parents, can make a difference that will improve and impact on the lives of our children and their well being.
Child Care provider Comments
Liseth Martinez
Liseth Martinez
Mother of two
One of the things that I always tell parents in my community is the way you ask things is important. If Janet is planning to organize a clean-up day, she needs to involve the whole community around her. If she comes in and says, “This is what I want to do,” people tend to think, “She’s going to do it. She’ll take care of everything.” But you want to involve the whole community, so instead say, “How can you help me? What can we do together?” Get their ideas and input into your planning of the event.
Ronni Rice
Ronni Rice
Mother of Two
We sort through our toys every six months and give them away to charity. With big world events like Hurricane Katrina, my kids even donated stuffed animals they won at a fair because I had told them that some children lost everything and that was their way of helping. I think that if you get kids connected to their world, they will want to take care of it and that will help keep them away from gangs and violence.
Sandra Dennis
Sandra Dennis
Grandmother of one
As a grandmother, I started helping even when my daughter was young. Our church would always prepare meals for the homeless on Thanksgiving and we’d take them out to people that couldn’t get to a shelter or couldn’t go somewhere for a meal. What we got the kids to do was have ownership in the project. They were able to help pack the bags and pass out water bottles. They felt that they were really being a part of helping someone less fortunate to have a meal on Thanksgiving. It really made Thanksgiving a lot more meaningful for my daughter.

Ideas for Parent Activism Featured Activity:
Ideas for Parent Activism
Parent Activism Featured Video:
Parent Activism
Topic: Early Learning Areas
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