Building strong families is intrinsic to Get IN Chicago’s mission of keeping acutely high-risk youth safe, which is why parent leadership is a key component of our funding and measurement work. Along with Family Focus and Metropolitan Family Services, Youth Guidance is one of Get IN Chicago’s three parent leadership grant recipients.

With hundreds of parents in Austin and Englewood served to date, the Youth Guidance team uses the evidence-based B-PROUD (Black Parenting with Respect, Order, and Discipline) model to emphasize respect and communication between parents/caregivers and teens. B-PROUD, developed by Northwestern University professor Dr. Jelani Mandara, addresses issues of racial socialization, adolescent development, and discipline styles. Last year, 80% of Youth Guidance B-PROUD graduates reported that they apply the “no fault” approach when dealing with their children’s challenges at home, in school, and in the community after participating in the program.

Get IN Chicago’s University of Chicago Institute of Politics intern, Emily Orenstein, recently sat down with three Youth Guidance parent program staff members – Rodney Brown, Family Engagement Coordinator; Alice Ewell, Family Engagement Coordinator; and Della Ezell, Senior Parent and Family Engagement Specialist – to learn more about their work.

(left to right) Youth Guidance’s Della Ezell, Rodney Brown, and Alice Ewell (Photo: Nicole Wong, Youth Guidance)

How did you end up working in parent development?
Rodney: I’ve been affiliated with Youth Guidance for a long time, and the project I started off with was a school reform model started by Dr. James Comer. I did that for about 15 years. It included a parent component, which was the seed that led to me focusing on parent engagement work.

Alice: I just like working with the parents – helping them really be advocates for their children so that their children can grow up to be productive citizens. Most of the parents have said that since taking the class they have become better parents.

What makes this curriculum (B-PROUD) really special?
Rodney: It starts out talking about different parenting styles: there’s the responsiveness part, and then the demandingness part, which is setting rules, boundaries, expectations and things. We talk about academic responsibility and effectiveness, socialization in this country. We want to make it relevant to what’s happening in today’s world.

Della: We try to use a no-fault approach. Parents really do care. Some of them take two or three buses to get to these classes.

Brown leading an Englewood B-PROUD class in September. (Photo: Nicole Wong, Youth Guidance)

Other than your work with B-PROUD, what other Youth Guidance projects are you excited about?
Rodney: We have a yearly Parent Leadership Conference that brings up to 200 parents to hotels in the Chicago area to learn about topics that are interesting to them, and March will be our 25th year.

Della: You would not believe it – it’s not until March, and we already have people calling, asking, “When is the conference? Where is it going to be?”

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned working with parents?
Della: Their resiliency. Oh my God, they’re going through so much and they still try to come out every day to learn as much as they can to make it better.