By Monica Koller, Family Champion, Generations Forward Children’s Collaborative
December 5, 2019
Our circle of families sat together on a cold November evening catching up on what’s happened since our meeting two months ago. Lots of folks balancing work and time with their children, some stress about transitions, and one excited mama’s announcement that her youngest is done wearing diapers! We serve up dinner for our children and then ourselves. And then the exciting part… kids participate in supervised children’s activities while our Family Council (FC) members move to the “grown up” room.
Today we hear from two FC parents who attended an ACES and Resiliency conference in Portland, Oregon that was supported through Generations Forward (GF). They’re eager to share what they learned and how we could build momentum around childhood well-being locally. The group is also joined by a guest from our coalition’s Policy & Advocacy team. As we begin to reflect on our own advocacy work, we unearth stories of amazing things our team of family experts has done outside of their Generations Forward participation. From food justice issues to protesting racial profiling in our criminal system, these parents have shown up for their community in profound ways. There’s an energy in the room of excitement and hope for change. Families offer ideas on what policies need to be in place to support all families in our county. Some members seem eager to find out how to get more involved in conversations that will support a policy proposal that will be presented to our County Council and Health Board in January 2020. As Family Champion, I leave feeling good that we are continuing to form trusting family relationships in our FC as well as identifying actions that we hope will create lasting change.
Families who participate in GF meetings receive stipends. We provide childcare and food at meetings. But something is still missing. Generations Forward’s promise is to center diverse family voices in our work - and we’re not truly meeting that promise. We continue to be challenged with operating under county policies, bumping up against systemic barriers that limit how we fund projects and people. With the intent of keeping initiatives and ideas moving, we make decisions without the multiple perspectives of families. We leave out potential participants due to language barriers, timing of meetings, and a lack of resources that would support various Family Champions. My own biases and limited time to commit to this work remains a challenge in bringing families together.
I acknowledge that we have grown tremendously by forming our Family Council and providing Family Fun Nights in the community. And there’s so much more to do to create a sense of belonging for families in all the work we do. Sometimes I feel hopeful, sometimes defeated. But as a group we keep going, with an understanding that discomfort leads to change. And so we keep asking questions, sitting with the unknown, and eating pizza together.
Based in Whatcom County, Washington, Generations Forward Children’s Collaborative is a growing group of over 200 partners with a shared purpose to promote the well-being of our region's youngest children and their families. Supported by the Family Champion, our Family Council serves as a self-nominated council of parents and caregivers. Families share their lived experiences to guide action team work and to approve annual priorities.
For more information, visit the Generations Forward's Learning Community Profile.