Partnering With Parents to Improve Program Success

Native American Parent Professional Resources (NAPPR) has a 30-year history of supporting families, particularly those with young children. Based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the organization serves families living on or off reservations in a four-county area. In 2010, it began the Tribal Home Visiting Program, which provides home-based education and support for families who have young children or are expecting a baby.

The NAPPR Tribal Home Visiting Program is supported by a grant from the Tribal Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting program, administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families (ACF). NAPPR is one of 25 tribal organizations participating in the federal Tribal Home Visiting program.

NAPPR staff recognized that the strength of home visiting hinges on the trust and involvement of the community. They needed multiple partners to help assess community needs, raise awareness of what home visiting was all about, and refer families to the program.

Program Director Rebecca Riley said, “Maria Brock, the first director, saw the value in engaging the community as much as possible and spearheaded the creation of a Community Advisory Board early on. She recruited individuals from the steering committee that conducted the needs assessment who could invest their expertise long term and were involved in other areas that could help the program develop. Some of those individuals are still on our Community Advisory Board today.”

Equally important, Brock and others wanted families at the table to help design and guide the program. They created a Parent Advisory Council, where members could roll up their sleeves and take on important tasks to ensure program success.

“We say on the flyer that it’s a working group,” said Riley. “We ask that members come ready to work, to participate, to provide comments. And we provide a meal at every meeting and assistance to help them get to the meetings, including child care incentives and incentives for their time in the form of gift cards and gas cards. We have some families that travel 50 miles just to come to the meeting, and they come consistently.”

The Parent Advisory Council has evolved through experimentation and reflection. At one point, the Council had grown to 30 members; it later settled at 15 as the optimal number for a working group. The Council members receive regular reports from program staff on the implementation of the Council’s recommendations. They end each meeting by sharing what they liked about the meeting and ideas for future meetings.

“One parent said, ‘it’s really nice to see that you listen to us and we actually see results happening,’” said Riley. “What we’re seeing now is the parents wanting to take over some of those tasks that are appropriate, such as helping develop parts of the curriculum or providing their own expertise if they have a job skill or went to school for certain topics that could be of assistance to the program.”

One example of the Council’s positive impact is the increase in prenatal referrals to the program. “We had a lot of Council members who had enrolled while they were pregnant and just after they had their baby,” said Riley. “So we gathered their feedback about what would have engaged them more. They provided the best feedback ever, including things like supplies that new parents can start out with right away.”

Program staff researched various possibilities and brought the idea of “baby boxes” to the next Council meeting. First developed in Finland to reduce infant mortality, each sturdy cardboard box is lined with a mattress and is the perfect size for a sleeping infant. The box is then filled with clothes, blankets, and other things parents will need for their newborns.

“We asked the Council members if something like this would have engaged them into the program as a prenatal mom, and they were like, ‘yes, this is so cool!’” said Riley. “So we asked them what kind of things we should put in the box that would be useful and would speak to Native American families. They helped with the development, and we were able to launch a mini pilot project a few months ago. We’ve enrolled 10 new prenatal families since that time and have five more referrals, which is a huge increase. We credit that to the Council.”

For more information about NAPPR’s Tribal Home Visiting Program, contact Rebecca Riley, Program Director, at 505-345-6289 or rriley@nappr.org.

NAPPR empowers, educates, and provides culturally appropriate services to build healthy Native American children and families. Learn more here.

ACF’s Tribal Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting program provides grants to tribal entities to develop, implement, and evaluate home visiting programs in American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) communities. The grants are intended to help develop and strengthen tribal capacity to support and promote the health and well-being of AIAN families, expand the evidence base around home visiting in tribal communities, and support and strengthen cooperation and linkages between programs that serve tribal children and their families. Learn more about the Tribal Home Visiting program and grantees here.

Last Reviewed: June 13, 2017