Parent Accountability Council

PAC Group photo


ELM relies on the regular guidance and expertise of two decision-making groups.

Parent Accountability Council

The Parent Accountability Council (PAC) ensures that family voice guides ELM's work. Parents from African American, African immigrant, Asian, Latino, Native American and Slavic communities form the council. In addition to the monthly* PAC meetings, partner organizations convene quarterly culturally-specific Parent Leadership Team meetings for broader parent input.

Guiding Principles

The PAC's Guiding Principles are central to ELM's approach (also available in Chinese, Russian and Spanish).

When Early Learning Multnomah began, we needed a way for the Parent Accountability Council to guide us in all the many decisions we as staff had to make—from who we partnered with and what we prioritized, to where we made financial investments. So, PAC members and ELM staff created the Guiding Principles during months of conversation and debate, as a touchstone for staff in decision-making and a way for the PAC to hold staff and partners accountable. It’s been eight years and the Guiding Principles still drive the work of ELM and keep us attentive to the heart of the richly diverse parent community which is our PAC.

We want all children to thrive.


Focus on children who are called “at risk” but who are really “full of promise”

Some families face racism and discrimination. Some families live in poverty. Some families earn enough to put them just above the poverty level but then they don’t qualify for needed services. Some families have language barriers and experience lack of respect and low self‐ esteem. Other families don’t have a safe place to live, or they deal with substance abuse, criminal backgrounds and unemployment. These and other factors are often due to systemic and historical reasons.

group photo of parent leaders and former community pro staff at PAC Celebration


Make the invisible visible

Families with language and cultural barriers often struggle to communicate with schools and end up isolated and not respected. Make it possible for parents to speak up and then listen to their voices. Figure out what parents need to feel comfortable because some will speak up in a large group and others will talk with a trusted home visitor. Find ways to build trust if you want people to speak up. We need support getting ready for kindergarten. Have people in the school who can speak to us and our children and understand what we say. Find teachers and staff who are from our communities. Welcome us into the schools with respect. Be kind. Add flexibility to meeting times between parents and teachers. Get the right resources to every family. Listen and hear what is in our hearts. We have ideas that you need to see and hear.  

We are raising the children. We are your best resource.


Nothing about us without us

Understand what it’s like to be a parent. Understand that we raise our children to be proud of who they are and to be proud of their roots. Get to know us. Partner with us to see the success of our children. Ask us what we need and act on what you hear. We know what is best for our children. Recognize that our lives may be different from yours (for example: we may have many generations and ideas about parenting in one home). Give us social settings so our children can learn how to interact with others and we can learn confidence. Recognize how important we are in how our children turn out. Parents have a critical role in our communities. Come to our homes, and respect us. Learn from us as we learn from you. Include all of our family members. Programs wouldn’t exist without us so include us when planning programs and services, doing them, measuring their success, and sharing their success with us. Hear our needs before you proceed.

Family photo with face paintings and smiling during PAC Celebration


Support the family to support the child

We want to educate ourselves so we can also help educate others and move our communities forward. Provide education for parents and caregivers in the home and out of the home. Caregivers include grandparents and extended family. Offer classes, resources and services in our native languages. Give us the opportunity to learn English. Training needs to be culturally‐ responsive, in‐depth and ongoing. Honor our culture. We are hungry for knowledge and will ask for what we need. We invite you to ask us what we need and want to know. Follow through with commitments to parents. Start early. Don’t wait until problems get big. Prevention is as important as intervention.  

Talk to us. And talk to each other. It takes all of us to make life better for our children.


Work together to partner with families

We want better communication between parents and schools. We need to know how our children are doing when they are away from us on a regular basis, especially when our children have learning problems or struggles. We want to work together. Schools should partner with community agencies and parents. People making decisions about our schools and our neighborhoods need to talk to us. Understand the solutions and programs we’ve already developed and how they help us. Learn from programs that work well in our communities. Use our wisdom. Share the good work that we are doing.

ELM works with these organizations to provide support and staffing for parents on the PAC:

  • Latino Network
  • Native American Youth and Family Services (NAYA)
  • Self Enhancement Inc. (SEI)
  • Immigrant Refugee and Community Organization (IRCO)
  • KairosPDX

*Council meetings are open to the public with prior notice. Please contact Lai-Lani Ovalles for more information. 

Featured PAC members

PAC spotlight: Tam Huynh

Tam Huynh is an active parent leader and is well respected within the Vietnamese community in Portland. When her son was in Kindergarten at Lincoln Park Elementary, she met a P-3 Coordinator who helped Tam get involved parent leadership activities. She started serving on the Parent Accountability Council in 2017 because she cares about education and wants to help her community.

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