Department of Family Services

CONTACT INFORMATION: Monday–Friday 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
703-324-7500 TTY 711
12011 Government Center Parkway, Pennino Building
Fairfax, VA 22035
Michael A. Becketts

Parent Café Provides Community of Support

(Posted 2020 June, Updated 2021 May)

person sitting at table using laptopMost Monday evenings since April 2020, staff with the Parenting Education Programs have logged into a Zoom meeting room to welcome Fairfax County parents searching for peer support, advice, encouragement and resources. According to facilitator Janet Little, “This community shows up seeking a lifeline. Some are parents of children with special needs, some are parents who have attended a Parenting Class in the past, and many are parents overwhelmed with the day-to-day challenges of 24/7 parenting, especially during this pandemic.”

More than 100 parents have expressed an interest in the Virtual Parent Cafés, and on average about 15 parents attend the Parent Cafés each week as they are available. Some people come and go throughout the call, while others stay on for the entire discussion. It is a diverse group including moms and dads from a variety of different backgrounds. What they all have in common is the commitment to be better parents.

What is a Parent Café?

In a typical meeting, the Parent Café is moderated by one or more staff members who lead the discussion, while allowing parents to problem solve around a variety of topics. Little is often joined by another staff member, Mary Elizabeth Fleming. According to Little, past topics have covered routines, self-care, discipline, parental modeling, praise, expectations, and social media.

graphic of laptop screen showing video conference

The café offers a parent support circle for parents to learn from each other as they grow in their parenting skills. Parents build their own sense of competence and power by building relationships and connecting with other parents who share common experiences, successes, and challenges. 

During a recent Parent Café a special guest, Bianca, a peer recovery specialist with United Methodist Family Services led a presentation and group discussion about parenting children with special needs. She recounted her own experience of becoming the legal guardian for her nephew through foster care and the process of learning how to support him through his diagnosis of multiple mental health challenges. As other parents shared their own experiences and struggles with their children’s special needs, the group encouraged and uplifted each other, while providing tips to help those just beginning their journey. 

As conversation focused on what to do if you suspect your child has ADHD, one parent explained, “My oldest child was diagnosed with ADHD in high school. The middle school years will be very challenging if your child does not have some coping strategies in place to help them with organization and their focus on school work. Don’t wait to find out.” This personal parent-to-parent advice helped drive home the importance of early intervention.

In addition to supporting each other inside and outside of the Parent Café setting, parents learn to advocate for themselves and other parents as they both give and receive help and thereby recognize that seeking help is a sign of strength - not a sign of weakness. That is how the circle of support is formed.

Interested? To sign up for a Parent Café, please email or call us at 703-324-7720 at least one business day before the Parent Café. We look forward to you joining us!

You Are Not Alone Virtual Parent Cafes graphic English

You Are Not Alone Virtual Parent Cafes graphic Spanish

This posting is part of the Department of Family Services' Community Corner where you’ll find timely information about upcoming events, parenting and wellness tips, programs and services, and more! Share these helpful posts with your friends and family. Don't miss out on future postings; sign-up today!

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Fairfax Virtual Assistant