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"If my mom were in this room, would she be able to understand it?": How we infused accessibility, equity, and space for reflection into our new parent guide



Katherine Rosenblatt and Kari Ciprian are two of the many faces behind our new “parent guide.” The guide is a tool that accompanies our parenting program –  a 12-session group based program for the caregivers of young children – and functions as a reflective “workbook” of sorts for caregivers to use, learn from, and reflect within, throughout the program. During ParentCorps’ parenting program, pre-K families build community with each other and explore evidence-based practices they may choose to incorporate at home to support their children’s early learning and development. 


A version of the parent guide existed before, but it didn’t quite work. As part of a multidisciplinary team that included ParentCorps coaches, trainers, and designers, Katherine and Kari had many hopes in creating this new version of the guide: they wanted to offer a space for caregivers to reflect on their own upbringing and values, communicate the deep respect and honor we at ParentCorps have for caregivers’ experiences, and share evidence-based, practical information in grounded and understandable language. 


Oh, and, they wanted to make it look nice (which it does!).


Katherine works as a ParentCorps Programming Manager, and Kari is a ParentCorps Specialist supporting translations. In both of their work, they infuse stories from their personal lives. Katherine isn't shy about sharing her struggles and triumphs as a mom to her two children and believes that sharing our stories has the power to connect us. Kari is the proud daughter of a mother who passed down her values for advocacy and justice. She taps into her mom’s legacy often; when charged with the complicated task of making ParentCorps materials culturally and linguistically accessible to all families, when volunteering at her local community bookstore, when recommending bilingual books to her neighbors, and so on. 



In their time at ParentCorps, Katherine and Kari have both facilitated many parenting programs, experiences which helped inform the development of this new guide. From a sun-lit garden in New Jersey and a bright cafe on the Upper West Side of NYC, Katherine and Kari shared their experiences of rewriting and translating this tool, and their hopes for what the new guide can do for families.


This Q&A has been lightly edited and condensed.


Cindy: What is the parent guide, and how is it used in the parenting program?


Katherine: The new parent guide is a tool that is meant to be, primarily, a source of reflection for caregivers who are coming to the 12-week parenting program. Secondarily, but importantly, it’s also a source of information. But I think the goal of it was really for it to be about parent voice and parent experience. What we hope to be doing in the parenting program is creating a space that is centered on parent experience, and so we wanted the guide to reflect that.


Kari: It's conception was with the parent in mind. One of the biggest pieces of feedback we would get from parents about prior editions of the guide was, they would say, “Oh, it's such a nice textbook. I don't wanna write on it. I don't want to mess it up.” It felt like the book was untouchable. We really wanted to have it be more of a hands-on tool that invites guided reflection.


It was very intentionally made to look like a workbook so that folks would feel comfortable writing in it. It was meant to look like a notebook, down to the spiral binding and the kind of paper we used. We still wanted something very neat and very nice and high quality, but not something that didn't feel like you could touch it or you couldn’t draw in it.


It was very intentionally made to look like a workbook so that folks would feel comfortable writing in it. It was meant to look like a notebook, down to the spiral binding and the kind of paper we used. We still wanted something very neat and very nice and high quality, but not something that didn't feel like you could touch it or you couldn’t draw in it.

Cindy: In addition to design, how did the information change? How did it shift?


Katherine: Historically, we've always gone from the perspective of, “Here's the old version, let's edit the old version and change it.” And the intention this time was to ask, “What’s the simplest, easiest, cleanest way to say this?” It wasn't just an edit of the last version, it was a full rewrite.


Kari: The core messages were really well preserved without over-complicating it with too much information. To be honest, parents are busy. They're not going to have time to read a guide that's 10 pages long per session. They want to know, “What do I need to remember? What do I need to focus on?” You also have a subset of parents who can't come to more than a couple of sessions. They still want the information. 


 Parents are busy. They're not going to have time to read a guide that's 10 pages long per session. They want to know, “What do I need to remember? What do I need to focus on?”

Katherine: All the reflection questions that are in the guide are also in each session of the parenting program. So if you do miss a session, you can still self-reflect. And that's really the core of what we think is different about our parenting program. It's not about telling parents to do this strategy, that strategy, and this strategy. It's about having them interrogate whether the strategies fit their values, fit their lived experiences, or if it's even possible to try – because telling people what to do doesn't work.


It's not about telling parents to do this strategy, that strategy, and this strategy. It's about having them interrogate whether the strategies fit their values, fit their lived experiences, or if it's even possible to try – because telling people what to do doesn't work.

Cindy: Why is that self-reflective piece important?


Kari: So we have a saying: who you are is how you parent. Your experiences, how you were raised, what you witnessed, all of that really comes back. When we're able to reflect on: “Why am I making these decisions? Why am I asking my child to do this? Why do I feel like my child shouldn’t show sadness?” – when we really start to reflect on the “why,” it opens up more conversations to understand what it is that your child needs. What is it that you need? What are things that we can support you with? 


Katherine: What we're offering is space for reflection. The reality of any caregiver of young children is, do you have the time to reflect on the choices that you're making minute to minute, moment to moment? That time and space is super rare


We're also thinking about the changes that folks want to make for themselves. We know that long-term change only really happens if its values-aligned. And so we want to create a space where that could happen, if that's what a caregiver wants.


Cindy: Kari, can you share more about your experience translating the social-emotional language in the parent guide into Spanish? What guided you? 


Kari: I think there were two goals when it came to translating the social-emotional piece. One thing that gets tricky is when clinical terminology is translated in other languages, there are some terms that are very common and then there are other terms that, in other parts of the world, they haven't created something for that, or it's maybe not aligned with their beliefs. 


For example, in session two of the parenting program, we talk about ERI – Ethnic and Racial Identity. While a lot of Latin American countries talk about these concepts, there's no official term like ERI. You find a lot of mistranslations online and in different academic journals. 


The other goal was that the language be accessible, and when it came to accessibility, I always imagined having a conversation with my mom. There were times where I would call up my mom and be like, “Tell me if this makes sense.” So I wanted to really think about my family, and think about when I was in school what materials were or were not made for them. I remember having to translate for my parents when I was a kid. I remember as a kid being like, “I don't know what this means.” And so for me, it was really important to be like, if my mom were in this room, would she be able to understand it? And ultimately what it comes down to is, is it culturally relevant? 


I remember having to translate for my parents when I was a kid. I remember as a kid being like, “I don't know what this means.” And so for me, it was really important to be like, if my mom were in this room, would she be able to understand it? And ultimately what it comes down to is, is it culturally relevant? 

Cindy: I'd love to hear more about your mom!


Kari: What would you like to know? She’s a Virgo…


Cindy: Can you share a moment where she told you, “That doesn't make sense?” How did that conversation go?


Kari: My mom and I have a pre-established agreement. She’s asked me multiple times, “If you mispronounce a word, can I correct you?” And I'm always like, yes, absolutely. When it came to the guide, I talked to her and I said, “Listen, there's this project I'm working on. It's for parents. If there is ever a section that I feel like I'm unsure of, could I call you?” 


I would take sections and read them to her. She would tell me, “This part makes sense. Oh, this word, I've never heard of this word before.” Overall, if my mom can get enough context from these paragraphs, then we're good.


Cindy: How do you hope caregivers use the guide? What do you hope they take away from the guide?


Katherine: I hope they feel like it's theirs. In addition to the reflective parts and the informative parts that we've mentioned, we share illustrations and colored pencils with caregivers. Not all folks learn and process through writing or reading. And so we wanted a visually appealing guide where coloring in the images is another entry point into engaging with it and owning it as their own notebook.


I hope they feel like it's theirs.

Kari: I really hope that it's a tool that can be collectively used. I often have caregivers in the group who really want to share with others in the household who can't, for one reason or another, make it to the parenting program sessions. And we talk a lot about how important it is for all the adults to be on the same page. 


A piece that we added this year was talking about self care and community care. Black and brown communities in particular very much revolve around collective identities. For a lot of communities, that's what self care is: taking care of the unit and everyone takes care of each other. I hope that the guide helps to support that.


Katherine: Coming to the group could be a version of self and community care. What we hope extends from those relationships that are built [between pre-K caregivers] is a sustaining form of community care. Like Kari is saying, self care from a white culture definition is very individualistic. But the idea that being in community and supporting that community can feel really filling and affirming – that is something that we very intentionally shifted in the program.


Cindy: What are you most proud of in making this guide?


Kari: I think my proudest moment was going to my first parenting program group, passing it out and seeing the families really excited. They say things like, “Oh, it's so pretty,” and, “Oh, this is so nice.” And they keep bringing it to the group. I'm on session eight, and every single caregiver that comes to my group brings their guide. I've seen people write in it. And to see that, it makes all the work worth it.


Every single caregiver that comes to my group brings their guide. I've seen people write in it. And to see that, it makes all the work worth it.

Katherine: What I'm proud of is that the final product holds on to the collective wisdom of the folks that had ideas about what the changes should be. Sometimes in a process you lose that, and I really feel like this time we were able to hold on to those core goals and ideas throughout. It was a real group effort of a lot of folks leaning into their strengths to make a beautiful end product.


Cindy Gray is a ParentCorps Senior Program Coordinator.






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