School Change Starting with Parent Empowerment
Schools won’t change on their own, often needing a push from concerned educators, community members and, most importantly, parents. But too often parents don’t know how to get involved or how to speak out on behalf of their children.
Thankfully there are tools and resources out there to help parents understand their rights (and the rights of their children) and learn how to talk to policymakers and educational leaders about ensuring their children get the education they deserve. One of those organizations is African Caribbean American Parents of Children with Disabilities (AFCAMP), led by Executive Director Ann Smith. Ann joins me on the podcast this week.
We need more parents as educational advocates if we’re going to make real change happen. And the more they learn, the more comfortable they are with speaking up for their children and for the community as a whole. Ann shares what those resources are and why they’re so incredibly important.
About Ann Smith, JD, MBA:
Ann R. Smith, JD, MBA is a “change-maker” who can speak to the importance of engaging families, youth, and community to address inequitable policies and practices that produce disparate outcomes across the intersecting education, juvenile justice, and health (physical / behavioral / mental) systems.
Ann is Executive Director of African Caribbean American Parents of Children with Disabilities, Inc. (AFCAMP) commonly known as AFCAMP Advocacy for Children, a parent-led nonprofit organization headquartered in Hartford, CT. For 20+ years AFCAMP has provided resources, training and advocacy to promote authentic family and youth voices to inform decision-making within child-serving systems including education, juvenile justice, child welfare and children’s behavioral health.
Pursuing equity fuels AFCAMP’s work to transform systems and reduce the adverse and disproportionate impacts experienced by youth of color and youth with disabilities. A multi-level approach is employed to reform systemic policies and practices that proliferate inequitable education, justice, health, and economic outcomes for children and families of color with a particular focus on those that are Black.
Ann currently serves as a Tri-Chair of the Connecticut Children’s Behavioral Health Plan Implementation Advisory Board. She also serves on other advisory bodies and nonprofit boards of directors. She held multiple roles over 16 years of service with the State of Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) and its predecessors. Ann is also an attorney licensed by the State of CT.
Jump in the Conversation:
[1:34] – Where school transformation began for Ann
[2:48] – Parents don’t always know their rights
[4:32] – Community Parent Resource Center
[5:50] – Find out about your own state’s resource center
[8:18] – Where to begin in gaining empowerment
[10:55] – How the system encourages and accepts parents and youth
[13:01] – When families are actively involved, the process of education with their kids, the outcomes are better
[21:14] – Turbo Time
[22:49] – What you need to know about parent engagement
[24:33] – Ann’s Magic Wand
[26:19] – Maureen’s Takeaways