The Parent Partner Approach: 

Parents Empowering Parents to Strengthen Families, Communities, and Systems


Cathy Edwards

Job Title

Recent MSW graduate


lecture, panel presentation


Foster and/or Adoptive Parents, Biological Families, Service Providers, Case Managers, Judges/Lawyers, Students, Advocates, Policy Makers

Presentation Summary:

Efforts on behalf of child welfare professionals to meaningfully engage difficult or hard-to reach parents who are involved in child protection cases are hampered by an array of individual, family, caseworker, organizational, and policy-related barriers.  Additionally, the involuntary nature of family involvement and the additional stressors associated with the possibility of termination of parental rights strain the intended helping relationship between caseworkers and the families they serve.  As a result, the families most in need of services are frequently the least likely to engage in them which can result in a host of negative outcomes for children, families, and the communities where they reside.

Attendees will learn about Parent Partners, a community-based, peer-support model for engaging parents and strengthening families, communities, and systems to achieve safety, permanency, and well-being for children.


-       Attendees will learn about the importance of engaging child welfare-involved parents, the numerous barriers that inhibit this engagement, and how a Parent Partner approach fosters this engagement.

-       Attendees will learn how a Parent Partner approach benefits former system-involved parents, current system-involved parents, child welfare professionals and their agencies, and the community at large.

-       Attendees will learn the preliminary steps necessary for planning and implementing a local Parent Partner approach.




Cathy Edwards is a recent graduate of the UMKC School of Social Work.  Through her practicum placement with an agency contracted by the state of Missouri to provide foster care case management services for children and families, she recognized a need for innovative strategies to engage parents in services intended to promote family reunification.  After researching parental engagement strategies in other communities, she developed a guide to planning and implementing a Parent Partner approach for her MSW capstone project

Tracy White is a Social Work Administrator for the Iowa Department of Human Services.  She began her career as a child protection worker and later became a case management supervisor.  She speaks nationally about the Parent Partner approach and the importance of parental engagement in child welfare.  She is passionate about this empowering approach and provides other communities with guidance on how to start their own Parent Partner programs.

Denise Moore is a Parent Partner Coordinator in Des Moines, IA.  At one time, her children were removed from her care and she faced near termination of her parental rights.  She speaks nationally about the need for child welfare systems to work more effectively with birth parents.  In 2011, Denise was awarded the Ruth Massinga/Casey Excellence for Children, Birth Parent of the Year for her exceptional service and commitment to birth parents.