By Jamael Tito Brown, Mayor of Youngstown and Eve Sullivan, Founder of Parents Forum

Everyone agrees that parents have enormous impact on their children’s lives, yet the preparation we receive for our responsibilities, usually limited to the early years, is often narrow in scope. We know we need guidance and help at the beginning, but as important as this stage is – and Youngstown has 13 Head Start sites – the city intends to do more. As Mayor, I have invited an Ohio native, Parents Forum founder, Eve Sullivan, to bring to Youngstown this innovative program, especially designed for parents of children ages five to ten, and welcoming parents of children of any age.

Why Parents Forum? Why now? And why here? We know that families in this area are struggling. Even if our own family lives are, at least most of the time, happy and productive, family dysfunction has ripple effects we all see and serious costs we all bear. Youngstown can lead the way in making parenting education a universal offering. August 1st, Respect for Parents Day, is the ideal time for us to take this step.

Whether you are a busy parent yourself, a senior or a youth with volunteer energies to share, or a business person committed to employee development and productivity, Parents Forum Youngstown needs you. Please stop by Covelli Center this Thursday, August 1st, Respect for Parents Day, any time between 4:00 and 7:00 pm, where Parents Forum Youngstown will be part of Alta Head Start’s community event “Children in Motion”.

With local support and engagement, we see Parents Forum Youngstown becoming a key contributor to community wellbeing. We want to work with other entities serving families: social services, health care, schools and businesses. Centofanti Center has provided a seed grant, Alta Head Start is taking administrative lead and the Chamber of Commerce workforce development program will be involved. Parents Forum workshops and other program activities are only part of the plan, as faculty in Youngstown State University’s Human Ecology Department will study the implementation and its results during the next three years.

Participants in Parents Forum workshops, over the past 25 years in Massachusetts and elsewhere, say that what they learn helps them feel more confident in managing challenges they face daily in their personal and professional lives. Besides individual reports, large-scale studies show excellent results for parenting programs. Financial returns of between $9 and $19 dollars for each $1 spent have been documented for investments in family life education. We believe that Youngstown can lead the way in creating this new community institution that, like kindergarten and scouts which originated a century ago, will inspire others.

All parents want to raise their children to be happy, productive and resilient adults, yet too many of us lack the skills and support to do this easily and consistently as our children grow and change through childhood and into adolescence. The Parents Forum approach – with a strong blueprint for community action — can mobilize the energy of individuals and groups in Youngstown to more effectively work together to foster healthy family life in our city. We believe passionately that parenting education can be – and must be– a cornerstone of our investment in community development.