The Georgia Parent Mentor Partnership is parents and professionals working together to improve outcomes for students with disabilities by enhancing communication and collaboration between families, educators and the community. Although the specific job descriptions and work plans may vary slightly from one school district to another, mentor’s work is focused on enhancing communication and collaboration between families, schools, and communities in order to improve outcomes for students with disabilities and their families.
The Parent Mentor Partnership was founded in 2002 when six school districts partnered with the Georgia Department of Education Division for Special Education Services and Supports to hire parent mentors to infuse family engagement into school and district activities. The mentors, who would serve as members of their special education leadership teams, were funded partially by the GADOE and partially by the school district. Mentors were responsible for providing information to parents of students with disabilities to assist them in navigating the special education system and in identifying activities that could help improve outcomes for their children. They also supported teachers and administrators in planning and implementing activities that would support family involvement.
Modeled after the Ohio Parent Mentor Program and led by the GaDOE Special Education Family Engagement Specialist, the Georgia Parent Mentor Partnership quickly became a model for families and schools working together to improve outcomes for students with disabilities. Today, the Partnership has grown to include over 100 parent mentors who partner with special education directors in over 90 school districts to embed family engagement into school and district initiatives.
Parent Mentors Work With:
Families: Parent mentors provide information and resources to parents of students with disabilities on a variety of topics and issues related to home, school, and community.
- Work with families of students with disabilities daily, providing them with tools, resources, and strategies to support their children at home, school, and in the community. As parents of children with disabilities themselves, parent mentors are committed to providing parents with timely access to information and family-friendly resources on a variety of topics and issues.
In response to questions from parents, mentors provide information on a variety of topics through telephone calls, letters, email, and face-to-face meetings. For example, mentors may be asked to assist parents in identifying funding sources for specialized equipment or in locating medical and therapeutic services within the community. They may also be asked to assist in obtaining resources that parents can use to help their children in reading and math. Because each parent mentor works with their school district the types of services they provide vary according to the needs in their district.
Schools: Mentors also work with teachers, staff, and administrators to integrate family engagement into school and district activities and to build a culture in which family engagement is expected and valued.
- Parent mentors provide information and resources to parents to empower them to help their children succeed in school and transition from school to adult life. Support usually begins when children are first referred to special education, and parents are learning about theprocess. Mentors encourage parents to be actively engaged in their child’s education and to participate in IEP meetings. As students grow older, parent mentors provide resources and supports to parents that are related to effective transition planning, hoping to improve their post-school outcomes.
Communities: Parent mentors also work to support integration of students with disabilities into the community by working with partners to build a community in which students with disabilities are included and valued.
- Parent mentors, in collaboration with teachers and administrators, work to build community partnerships that focus on issues effecting students with disabilities and their families. In some communities, mentors have developed strategies that remove barriers and support inclusion of students with disabilities in the community. In these efforts, parent mentors have identified and implemented strategies designed to improve vocational training and job opportunities, as well as after school care and recreational options for students. As a result of these activities, students and their families have more opportunities for participation and inclusion in their home communities.
Parent mentors work to build effective family, school, and community partnerships. At the school, district and state levels, these partnerships are essential to the success of parent mentors and ultimately to the enhanced outcomes for students and their families.
They provide information about the needs of students and their families, they collaborate with teachers to implement reading and math initiatives, and they work with teams focusing on reducing dropout and increasing graduation rate. Mentors also partner with over 700 Title I Parent Involvement Coordinators to align their work with district family engagement activities for at-risk students. Parent mentors also work with community partners to increase vocational training and job opportunities as well as recreational options for students.
Parent mentors also collaborate with personnel from a variety of agencies. They work with staff from Parent to Parent (P2P) of Georgia, the state’s Parent Training and Information Center, to make information available on a large number of topics in a variety of formats. The Georgia Parent Mentor Partnership, is a founding member of the Georgia Parent Leadership Coalition (PLC) a collaborative effort between organizations representing families of children and adults with disabilities in Georgia. The Coalition is focused on building, supporting and strengthening parent leaders across the state.
Division for Special Education Services and Supports will provide:
- An additional $12,500.00 to the district’s federal funds allocation. (Districts with more than 4,000 students may receive funding for up to two half-time parent mentors.)
- Professional developmentfor the parent mentor and special education director/administrator on statewide initiatives and family engagement strategies through the Division for Special Education Services and Supports.
Districts will commit to:
- Provide the salary for the parent mentor.
- The estimated yearly cost for a school district with one half-time, 20 hours a week parent mentor is typically about $25,000.00 which includes $14,400.00 in salary for the school year, approximately $2,000.00 in travel/conference costs and other incidentals, and $8,500.00 of in-kind contributions, which may include: office space,a computer, adequate office supplies, a phone line with voice mail, email, and clerical support.
- Provide travel expenses for the following required trainings:
- The parent mentor and the special education director or an administrator to attend the annual GaPMP statewide conference.
- The parent mentor to attend 4 regional drive-in trainings and one divisional drive-in university.
- Orientation for new parent mentors and their director or an administrator.
Qualifications & Selection
Qualifications of a GaPMP Parent Mentor:
- A parent of a child with a disability who is currently receiving, or has previously received, special education and related services through an Individualized Education Program (IEP).
- Parent Mentors must work a minimum of 20 hours per week at a suggested starting salary of $20.00 per hour for the number of days the school district is in session. Salary increases, such as the cost of living raises, should be provided for the parent mentor when a district provides one for other professional staff.
Expectations for a GaPMP Parent Mentor:
- The parent mentor, with the support of the special education director, will assist the district in its work around building partnerships between families and schools and with the SPP/APR parent involvement indicator (Indicator 8).
- The parent mentor must submit a quarterly report on family and educator contacts to the GaDOE Family Engagement Specialist.
- The parent mentor must submit a quarterly report on their work with a target group of parents utilizing the GaPMP Evidence to Practice Guides (E2P).
- An application for particpation must be completed by continuing districts and districts that are newly applying.
- Districts that elect to continue with the GaPMP are required to have the FY18 Accountability Report form based on GaPMP Evidence to Practice Guides a nd Annual Contact Summary Report submitted by May 31, 2018. Smaller districts (those with fewer than 200 students with disabilities under IDEA) may collaborate together and submit a shared position. Both districts will be required to submit an application.
Training & Performance
The Georgia Parent Mentor Partnership offers training resources available to the public. These are the same resources they use when training Parent Mentors. Online Training: http://www.parentmentors.org/training/
Anne Ladd, Family Engagement Specialist with the Georgia Department of Education Division of Special Education by emailing email@example.com (404-657-7328)