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Program Helps Parents Advocate for Children

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

HOUSTON, Aug. 1, 2006 – A new initiative called “Parent to Parent” is designed to bring parents together to teach other parents how to be the best advocates for their children.

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Jacqy Matlock, a team leader with the Military Child Education Coalition Parent to Parent program, shows off the initiative’s “Recipe for Success” pamphlets during the coalition’s 8th annual conference in Houston. Photo by Rudi Williams

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Parent to Parent is funded by the Army Community and Family Support Center’s Child and Youth Services and the Military Child Education Coalition. MCEC program was developed and initiated the program administers it.

The program is intended to provide timely and relevant information to parents and guardians, giving them the skills and tools necessary to be their children’s best advocates in schools.
The Parent to Parent workshop series helps parents better prepare for moves from one school to another.
“We do several workshops where we teach parents exactly what they need to have from pre-school to high school,” said Loretta Cremin, a Parent to Parent specialist at Fort Hood, Texas. “We tell parents what would go into an academic portfolio to help their children have a smooth school transition, … what shot records to have, transcripts, letters of recommendation, that type of thing.”
The program also hosts workshops for parents on how to get the most out of homework, how to prepare for parent-teacher conferences and how transitioning families should deal with special needs students, Cremin said. Other workshops help military parents prepare students for applying for college and preparing for high school
“We sort of level the playing field so when these children move around they don’t lose critical courses and that they take all the right stuff that will make them competitive in high school and good candidates for good colleges,” Cremin said.
The program also promotes use of video conferencing systems available in many schools to help deployed parents communicate with schools and their children.
Program officials said video conferencing removes barriers and helps parents and schools solve problems. The Army’s sponsorship of the program allows the Military Child Education Coalition to hire and train up to seven program specialists at each installation to support military parents and their children.
Cremin, a mother of four children, said she heard about the Parent to Parent program through a family support group. “I thought it was extraordinary that we reach out to parents -- educate parents,” she said. “It takes a community to help a child transition and have academic success, but it begins with the parents. If we can educate parents and make them proactive and give them control, that’s our surest bet because they are the ones who know their children best.”
Cremin and her husband, Army Col. Mark Cremin, a judge advocate at Fort Hood, Texas, have 22 years of military family support experience.
“Anybody who is from the military culture understands that our kids are very resilient -- they do well and are very successful,” she said. “They have unique perspectives of the world. But I think it’s our job to help them with the academic process. Success isn’t an accident. It takes hard work. We need to have a plan, and I think this is part of that plan to help do our best for our children because they’re our future.”
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Related Sites:
Military Child Education Coalition

Click photo for screen-resolution imageLoretta Cremin, a Parent to Parent specialist at Fort Hood, Texas, praises the benefits of the program. Photo by Rudi Williams  
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