On July 15, 2016, families from all over Portland celebrated two years of being involved in ELM’s Parent Acountability Council (PAC). More than 40 families from culturally specific communities gathered at IRCO gym to celebrate accomplishments and discuss hopes for the future of ELM.
The PAC empowers parents to guide ELM’s priorities and influence how time and money are invested to serve children of color, low-income children and their families.
“The PAC is an example of placing authentic value on parent voice in a way that actually affects the direction of decision-making processes that will impact children and families in our communities of color,” said Sahaan McKelvey, Program Manager of Family Stabilization Services at SEI.
ELM’s PAC is made up of family members from the Latino, African American, Native American, African Immigrant, Slavic and Asian communities supported by staff from Latino Network, SEI, NAYA and IRCO.
“Even though we don’t always speak the same language, we all have the same vision,” said Lydia Sanders, PAC parent leader.
One example of the PAC’s impact is Preschool Promise, a new state investment in publicly funded preschool. Over the last year, PAC parents have helped determine how Preschool Promise will roll out in Multnomah County. They’ve talked about safety for their children in preschool, what makes them and their children feel included in preschool, and what early education programs they value. These discussions directly affected the blue print for Preschool Promise, including which programs were funded through the grant.
“These are easy decisions for ELM to make,” said McKevley of SEI, “But the process of actually listening to parents and applying their input in major financial decisions is a radical concept that is often talked about but rarely practiced.”
At the PAC celebration, the mood was festive but also focused and thoughtful. Parents, partner staff and ELM staff were proud of how far they had come, and ready for the next phase of work.
"I'm constantly talking to people about it because it has been amazing to be a part of it," said Lupe Campos, Early Childhood Program Manager at Latino Network. "I have loved seeing the passion and dedication the parents have for making a change and making the future a brighter one for their children."
In the coming year, PAC members will continue to advise ELM staff, advocate for early childhood issues in the legislative session and focus on a few key priorities: creating a strong parent voice in the new P-3 schools, expanding parent voice by connecting with more organizations that support communities of color, and pushing for increased access to high quality preschool.
“It’s great that the work we’re doing really means something,” said Alise Sanchez, Foster Care Services Manager at NAYA Family Center.
For more information about the PAC, get in touch with Molly Day at firstname.lastname@example.org.