What is Parent Connectors?

The Parent Connectors program is designed as a school-focused program to provide peer-to-peer support to parents of children with emotional and behavioral needs. This support is provided over-the-phone via trained Parent Connectors who make weekly calls to participating parents during the school year.

Parent Connectors



How Parent Connectors Works

What is Parent ConnectorsIn our current research study, schools work with families of children receiving special education services for emotional and behavioral disorders to identify parents who could benefit from Parent Connectors.

Once a parent is enrolled in the program, he or she is matched with a Parent Connector. Parent Connectors are also parents of children who received special education services for emotional or behavioral needs. Parent Connectors are experienced in navigating special education systems, partnering with teachers, and identifying community services to support mental health and behavior. During the school year, Parent Connectors make weekly phone calls to parent participants. The goals of the weekly phone calls are to provide support to parents, help them understand special education services, and offer parents strategies to effectively engage with their child's school and community supports. The end result is parents who are informed, connected, and skilled advocates for their child.

Parent Connectors is unique because it was designed as a school-focused intervention. In our current research study, schools work with families of children receiving special education services for emotional and behavioral disorders to identify parents who could benefit from talking with a Parent Connector.


Parent Connectors is innovative because it is the ONLY parent-to-parent support intervention that is:

  • Built on sound behavioral theories. Specifically, the Theory of Planned Behavior and Double ABCX Model (see Core Components) create the framework for Parent Connectors.
  • Completely manualized. This means that training guides have been created to make sure that the Parent Connectors program is standard across all sites and the people managing and delivering the program have the same information.
  • Supported with quality research. Researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and University of South Florida have researched the effectiveness of Parent Connectors to ensure it has positive results for parents and students.
  • Delivered entirely via the phone. Parents are busy, and providing support by phone allows the program to fit into the busy schedules of participating families at a time that works best for them.
  • Designed for use in school settings. Parent Connectors can be adopted by schools or local community agencies. We encourage partnering with local family support agencies to identify parents to train as Parent Connectors and engage school personnel help to identify families that would benefit from the program.

Core Components

Parent Connectors is built on the parent-to-parent support model for families of youth with emotional or behavioral needs. We believe that parents with shared experience are uniquely skilled to support other parents to become fully engaged as partners with their child's school- and community-based services. We believe this partnership between parents and their child's school and other agencies will lead to improved services for the child, which will ultimately improve his or her behavior and learning outcomes.

A unique aspect of Parent Connectors is that the program is built in existing principles of behavior. Specifically, we use the Theory of Planned Behavior1 and the Double ABCX Model2 to guide our core principles.

Three elements – emotional support, positive attitudes toward services, and informational support – are the core drivers of Parent Connectors, and structure how the program is trained and delivered. In phone conversations that occur over the course of the program, Parent Connectors provide the core components in the ways described in the table on the right.

Emotional Support

–Listen to parents' concerns

–Show interest in parents' experiences

–Express empathy and share experience

Positive Attitudes Toward Services

–Understand importance of parents' social norms and support network

–Explain benefits of school and community services to family

–Encourage parents to see how they can positively influence their child's educational and mental health supports to help their child be more successful

Informational Support

–Share information about IEPs, special education services, as well as school behavioral and academic services

–Provide information about community mental health and family resources

–Teach parents skills to find resources to meet the needs of child and family


1Ajzen, I. (1991). The theory of planned behavior. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 50 (2): 179–211. 

2McCubbin, H. I., & Patterson, J. M. (1983b). The family stress process: The Double ABCX Model of family adjustment and adaptation. In H. I. McCubbin, M. Sussman, & J. M. Patterson (Eds.), Social stress and the family: Advances and developments in family stress theory and research (pp. 7–37). New York: Haworth