University faculty have used rigorous research methods to demonstrate the effectiveness of the Parent Connectors program. Results of three extensive studies indicate that participation in Parent Connectors benefits both parents and students with positive outcomes related to caregiver strain, empowerment, academic achievement and use of mental health services.
To date, our school-focused studies have included junior high students with an IEP for emotional or behavioral needs. School districts have served as key partners, identifying families for each study. Research on Parent Connectors uses the gold-standard in intervention research methods by comparing two groups, families randomly assigned to the intervention and families randomly assigned to usual school services.
In 2019, researchers at the Academy for Child and Family Well Being concluded a six-year study of Parent Connectors. The study included families from eastern Nebraska and western Iowa, who attended school in 42 middle schools located in 13 school districts. Overall, 349 families participated in the study and 180 received Parent Connectors for one school year.
The video below briefly highlights the outcomes of the study:
When asked about the program, participating families emphasized a key aspect of the intervention was the shared experience with their Parent Connector.
Overall, results demonstrate that families who participated in Parent Connectors were more likely than their peers who did not receive services to report increased skills, and improved comfort and satisfaction with their engagement with school and mental health services. Furthermore, participants highly recommend the program to others.
A more detailed description of the project and outcomes is available through the following video and handout:
Outcomes for Parents
Comparisons of parents, randomly assigned to either Parent Connectors or the comparison group, found several promising outcomes for Parent Connectors participants.
Outcomes for Students
Children of parents randomly assigned to Parent Connectors experienced positive outcomes related to school and mental health services. Additionally, the effects of working with a Parent Connector appear to be greater for families who experience high levels of strain at the start of the program.
While most of our studies are focused on families of students receiving special education services, Parent Connectors has been successfully implemented in community settings with students who are not formally identified for services (e.g., special education) and could be preschool, elementary or secondary students.
Parents who participated in a community-based version of Parent Connectors reported increases in two types of support: social support, or the encouragement and advice of friends and family, and concrete support, or referrals to the food pantry, childcare assistance, or mental health services that assist families in coping with stress in times of crisis.
Since 2009, Parent Connectors has been funded by more than $4 million in research grants from the U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences:
We are currently seeking additional support to study Parent Connectors with other populations, such as elementary students or families in rural communities.
1 Kutash, K., Duchnowski, A.J., Green, A.L., & Ferron, J. (2011). Supporting parents who have youth with emotional disturbances through a parent-to-parent support program: A proof of concept study using random assignment. Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research, 38, 412-427.
2 January, S-A., Duppong Hurley, K., Stevens, A.L., Kutash, K., Duchnowski, A.J., & Pereda, N. (2016). Evaluation of a Community-Based Peer-to-Peer Support Program for Parents of At-Risk Youth with Emotional and Behavioral Difficulties. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 25(3), 836-844.