26 Chapter 2
parent who has spent countless hours research-
ing and learning about the special education
system in order to get the services she needs for
her child. When she learned that another parent,
Leticia, was trying to find help for her son with
autism, Pui called, ordered, and paid for a special
education rights handbook in Spanish. Pui met
with Leticia, talked to her about resources, and re-
minded her of her rights. Pui reports that Leticia
received everything she requested for her son.

Many families have family, friend, and com-
munity networks in place that support their
health and well-being. These can include for-
mal and informal networks, such as child care
co-ops and exchanges; dinner delivery for new
or sick parents; play groups; car pools; parent
support and discussion groups; moms’, dads’,
or parents’ nights out; and group camping trips.

You can offer crucial support to families in
building these networks, starting simply by pro-
viding opportunities and facilitation for families
to get to know each other and make connec-
tions. You can also assist families in identifying
resources that their informal support networks
can provide to meet specific needs and concerns
and play a key role by facilitating contacts be-
tween families and their communities in order
to build informal networks.

Another network of support exists between
parents and teachers. Parents can provide you,
your programs, and other families with all kinds
of resources, such as ideas, creative thinking,
cultural information, language skills, time and
energy, and community resources and connec-
tions. In exchange, you can offer referrals, in-
formation, and assistance to connect families to
other resources. The surrounding community is
also part of a network of support for families.

Agencies, groups, resources, activities, busines­
ses, and classes in the community can provide
education and support to families if they know
where to look and how to access them.

Facilitating, nurturing, and helping to cre-
ate networks of support are important roles
for child care professionals. Not only do these
networks offer families and programs the ongo-
ing, comprehensive resources needed for them
to thrive, but they also offer all participants the
opportunity to be a resource to others, to be a
significant contributor to the community, and
to discover the gift of reciprocity.

A simple example of this happened in Beth
Ann’s family child care program. Beth Ann works
to set up an environment in which parents can
meet, connect, share experiences, and build re-
lationships. She is especially watchful at pickup
and drop-off times when parents are at her
home together. She recalls,
I always try to notice if two parents are talking
together so I can watch their kids and give them
the time to talk. One morning I noticed Lynn and
Sheila off to one side talking. Sheila was crying.

At pickup time that day, Lynn showed up with a
bouquet of flowers. She asked me to make sure
that Sheila got them. This is just a small example
of how I see the parents in my program building
lifetime connections to each other.

Networks broaden two-way communication
into multi-way communication. They allow for
more people and resources to enter the partner-
ship and expand the support system.

Reflecting on Networks of Support
What networks are currently in place in your
program? Community resources for families?
Family-to-family networks? Family-teacher
networks? Are there networks you would like
to help create in your program? Discuss these
questions with coworkers or other students.