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Parents Celebrate Having a Place at the Table

Early Learning Multnomah’s annual Parent Accountability Council (PAC) celebration is a lot like a big family reunion. Families gather on a sunny day in mid-July, coo over new babies, keep a close eye on toddlers mastering first steps, and share stories that lead to fits of laughter.  

The event is a chance for PAC members and partners to celebrate the work they’ve put in all year long keeping ELM’s investments in line with family needs and advocating for family-centered policies statewide. Community partners and ELM’s Sector Council members come to applaud their efforts, too, including staff from Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO), Latino Network, Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA), and Self Enhancement, Inc. (SEI). 

This year, parent leaders and partners wove together a tapestry of hopes, dreams and blessings for the children of Multnomah County. They shared their cultures through dance, food, and language. They also celebrated their accomplishments and reaffirmed their drive to become stronger, louder and bigger with each passing year. 

“One of the things I’ve learned through PAC is that parents’ voices matter,” said Lydia Gray-Holifield, a four-year PAC member. “Not only are we being heard, we’re being taken seriously. We’re being recognized, we’re being honored, and we’re being brought to the table where there were no seats for us in the beginning. And it’s now spreading. We’re making sure no decisions are made without us at the state level.” 

The PAC has created a space for parents to influence policies—a space that didn’t exist before. And ELM’s Sector Council leaders are seeing the benefits, too. 

“The families are what’s working. It’s the systems that are broken,” said Rachel Langford, Associate Director of Education Systems Alignment for Home Forward and ELM Sector Council member. “The power of our work together, using parent voice, is to help shift systems away from thinking about how are we making sure that families are ready, versus making sure that the systems are ready to serve families.” 

Here are 8 ways ELM’s parent leaders have made an impact in the last year:
  1. They ensured every ELM investment adhered to the PAC’s Guiding Principles, drafted budgets and approved investments for the 2018-2019 year.

  2. They worked directly with leaders across sectors—city, county, health, housing, K-12 education, DHS and business—to regularly inform strategies that impact kids and families.
  3. They wrote letters to key leaders in the State Legislature to advocate for increased investment in early childhood care and education.
  4. They hosted Impact NW’s newly formed parent council, helping them kick start their work, which was inspired by the PAC.
  5. They supported the launch of a Multnomah County chapter of the National Black Child Development Institute (NBCDI), with a PAC member in leadership.
  6. They informed changes to the region’s “Kindergarten Sign up” campaign materials and strategies to better improve community engagement and reach more families.
  7. They gathered community input about increased access to preschool in Multnomah County.
  8. They supported each other and used leadership skills to advocate in their schools for resources and supports, such as staff who speak the same languages as parents.  

We are excited to see what’s in store for another year of PAC. Learn more about PAC and ELM’s Governance Councils

Photos: Kyla Yeoman for United Way of the Columbia-Willamette