• This Bright Spot has been reviewed and approved by our community of impacted parents.

Parent review feedback summary

  • Parent reviewers were generally supportive of a place for parents to connect and share ideas, but were clear that it must be a safe environment with no threat of CPS involvement.
  • Parent reviewers recommended Cafés be racially diverse and culturally specific and provided at no cost to families.
  • Parent reviewers suggested providing concrete supports to families in addition to hosting Parent Cafés for greater positive impact on families.

What is the intervention?

Parent Cafés provide physically and emotionally safe spaces where people talk and hear each other on topics that matter to them, such as the challenges and victories of raising a family, navigating landscapes of inequality, enhancing well-being, or being involved in the recovery process of someone they love. Originally developed by Strengthening Families Illinois, Parent Cafés have achieved national reach through Be Strong Families of Illinois.  

Café structure starts with the introduction to Protective Factors (parent resilience, social connections, concrete support, knowledge of parent and child development, and social emotional competence of children) and to the theme of the Café. Participants pair up to discuss the theme of the day and participate in hosted table conversations. Participants write commitment cards to themselves, and Cafés end with a one-word closing. Feedback forms are completed as part of the reflective process.

Friends taking a selfie together

What makes it a Bright Spot?

Through individual deep self-reflection and peer-to-peer learning, Parent Café participants explore their strengths, learn about the Protective Factors, and create strategies from their own wisdom and experiences to strengthen their families. Participants report leaving Cafés feeling inspired, energized, and excited to put into practice what they’ve learned.

A Parent Café evaluation reports participants achieve statistically significant increases in resilience measures such as scores on Protective Factors to reduce child maltreatment, the ability to listen carefully to children, family, or friends, and an increased ability to handle stressful situations with their children or family members. Cafés are highly sustainable with training reinforcement, institutional support, and a commitment to an approach that engages and affirms parents as leaders.

What steps can you take?

Be Strong Families offers a three-step approach to bringing the Café experience to your organization: 

  • A Taste of Cafés: Every Friday, Be Strong Families hosts a free, online A Taste of Cafés at 12:00 pm CT. Experience how Cafés could strategically and intentionally meet your program’s parent engagement challenges.
  • Intro to Cafés: After you attend A Taste of Cafés, experience a monthly free 3-hour Intro to Cafés session for more information and to get your questions answered.  
  • Get trained to convene and conduct Cafés  


These materials may provide additional context and information about this family-approved resource for systems change.

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