Why Do We Have Targets?

Research from education and mental health literature document the impact of parent involvement on child outcomes.

In fact, the research so strongly supports parent involvement that a general assumption can be made that attempting to deliver services without parent involvement reduces the likelihood that services will help the child.

Without Targeted Outcomes, Parent Involvement Is Just About Attending Meetings.

Even though the benefits of parent engagement are well-known, social service and education agencies, including mature family-managed organizations, find it difficult to operationalize the President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health (2003) term, “consumer/family-driven.” Organizations can become so immersed in simply recruiting parents and family members to attend meetings (for their own children and/or as parent representatives to councils, boards, or site teams) that just getting parents to meetings becomes the goal of parent engagement. The reasons for getting parents to the meetings gets lost in the work of getting snacks and dealing with childcare and transportation issues.

Just Inviting Parents to Meetings Does Not Promote Sustained Involvement.

Savvy parent organizations recognize that the difficulty is not in getting parents to come to the meetings, the difficulty is getting them to come back. Most parents who are actively raising children do not have the time or energy to sit in hours of meetings—even functional meetings. Even wraparound teams become frustrated with the difficulty of maintaining parent-professional connections and may describe the reasons for connection failures in terms that blame parents or label them as “disinterested.”

TPA Sustains Parent Involvement With Targeted Outcomes for Increasing Engagement.

Our mission is to inform parents, to deepen their engagement, and to strengthen their capacity to impact services their children receive. Rather than inviting parents to one event after another so that communication is one-way (directed to them or about them) with evaluation limited to comments, TPA provides the structure to formalize peer-to-peer parent outreach, educational programs, information, and support so that the efforts are designed to systematically target the following outcomes:

  • Recruit, inform, and connect parents to quality information, to quality providers, and to other parents in similar circumstances, and

  • Promote informed, diverse voices to drive meaningfully outcome-oriented services for children.

TPA targets guide Keys staff (who are themselves family members from the target population) to deliver interventions that are appropriate to each level of parent engagement:

  • Recruit parents and promote awareness about the organization’s programs and services (Initiation stage, Levels 1-3);

  • Respond to what parents need now and purposefully move them forward along an established continuum of deeper engagement with their child’s education and treatment plans (Solution-Focused stage, Levels 4-6),

  • Connect parents to other families to reduce isolation and garner support and strength as well as information from those families’ experience (Linking stage, Levels 7-8); and,

  • Broaden parents’ interest to invest their time and the knowledge from their experience to promote improved care from community and state services for all Kansas children (Expanding Interests stage, Levels 9-10).

How Do Targeted Outcomes Help Deepen Parent Engagement?

The targets help us remember what we have done in the past with each family, and they guide what interventions we offer based on our experience with the family.

For example, we know that a Level 1 family is a first time caller, usually asking for information, and usually wanting a quick answer. We answer their question and ask for contact information so we can follow up. When a parent calls and we see that we have coded the family as a Level 4, we know that we have been reviewing plans (education, mental health, foster care, etc.) and brainstorming with the parent. The targets cue us to rely on the work of previous staff to identify the most appropriate interventions for each individual family. The levels also help staff identify change in the relationship between Keys and the parent. Level 7 parents offer to help other families. Level 9 and 10 parents offer and provide legislative testimony and participate on decision-making groups.

TPA targets enable staff to discriminate when offering interventions. The targets indicate which types of offerings are most appropriate for parents at each level of engagement.

Parents who are at Levels 1-3 need awareness programs and introductory sessions to explain mental health services and special education rather than seminars that are offered to the parents at Levels 4, 5, and 6. These parents want one-on-one assistance from very experienced staff to review IEPs and Wraparound plans and want help setting up service monitoring systems, speaking at court, etc. Levels 7 and 8 parents offer help to others and therefore need training to provide them with new information to do so. They also need to be connected with opportunities to develop helping relationships before they lose interest in helping others. Finally, parents in Levels 9, 10, and higher need and want intense content knowledge so they can contribute to and participate meaningfully in very complex discussions about issues such as state Medicaid planning, opening the medical card, or designing a new Medicaid waiver, or so that they can testify to or join a state department of education planning group to develop seclusion and restraint policies.


  • Education: Epstein & Sanders 2002; Henderson & Mapp 2002; Mapp 1997, 2002; Sheldon & Epstein 2005

  • Mental Health: Friesen 1989, 1991, 1996; Friesen & Huff 1990, 1996; Friesen & Koroloff 1997; Friesen & Osher 1996; Kruzich, Jivanjee, Robinson, & Friesen 2003; McCammon, Spencer, & Friesen 2001; Stroul & Friedman 1986