LIKE most other entities, the National Parenting Support Commission (NPSC) has had to change how it operates, due to the onslaught of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
It has, however, led to greater efficiency and an expansion of the commission's reach to the nation's parents.
Chief executive officer (CEO) of the NPSC, Kaysia Kerr, told JIS News that the commission has had “to pivot… to respond to this new dynamic and the global pandemic”.
Kerr said the commission has “totally reformatted all our programmes to ensure they are now compatible to be delivered in the online space”.
“We provide a lot of parenting education through existing programmes that we have in schools, and some are supported through communities like churches and community centres. For example, one of our major programmes is the Parent Place Programme [which has] a roving concept. So, we ensure that the material that would've been delivered through the Parent Place [go to] the cohort of parents online,” she said
The NPSC's Parent Place initiative is a 'one-stop shop' for parenting information, skills training and support on effective parenting. It offers what is described as “21st-century parenting,” through quality information and referrals, access to parenting resources and workshops.
The CEO said that while COVID-19 has been challenging in general, it has also presented the entity with several opportunities, “which we believe we are capitalising on, so much so, that we will never fully revert to how we used to deliver our programmes. We will always have the mixed modality approach.”
Kerr noted that one of the opportunities that has arisen working in the online space is that the commission is now able “to reach way more parents faster”.
“So, instead of driving to a location with several items — we would have all these kits with brochures and workbooks and so on — we are now doing that online and we get to do it in real time and there are no boundaries where geography is concerned,” she said.
“So, we will be talking to 60 parents from Trelawny and 20 from Westmoreland and 20 from Kingston. We do have the melting pot of persons coming together in this online space that we rather like, because it's instant and you get to also be able to put your finger immediately on the pulse of what's happening in several areas all at once,” she explained.
Kerr said the commission has also listened to parents' concerns and suggestions to serve them better during this difficult period.
She said that some male parents have expressed that they do not want to have parenting education sessions with female parents.
“They have said so very loudly and clearly and we had to respect that; they have no aversion to being trained and to look at new parenting practices. They are very open to improving their own practices and building their skill sets, but they don't want to have those sessions with the women,” Kerr said.
“So... we have created breakout rooms online, which they rather like, and they get to sit in a room by themselves virtually [where they] will be able to speak comfortably in a supportive environment where their thoughts and their experiences can also be validated. We use those experiences now as the launching pad to give them other tools, so their own practices can be improved. There are many opportunities which we have capitalised on,” she noted.
Kerr pointed out, too, that it has always been the commission's plan to increase its presence in the online space, and the pandemic just accelerated that intention.
“... We circulate materials and before you know it persons are gravitating to our offerings and they are signing up and they are actually showing up,” she said.
The CEO further noted that in the midst of the pandemic, the commission has also been coordinating its programmes through other existing structures.
“We have many partners across the country, so for example, Grace and Staff Family Foundation is an awesome organisation through which we work. They have access to so many parents across the country, and so we also partner with [them]. So, they pull in their parents; they support them, whether with credit and so on, so their calling time doesn't run out or their data plan doesn't run out,” said Kerr.
“They offer those kinds of support to them in the online space so they can access our sessions. Once persons engage with us that way, we find that they are repeat customers, so when we have other sessions they will come. The real-time accessibility is there, plus there are other support mechanisms that enable them to access our programmes,” she added.
The NPSC's mission is to assist parents in developing the skills they need to raise and protect their children, while encouraging a collaborative effort between home and school, so that parents and teachers may cooperate intelligently in the education of their children.
“The National Parenting Support Commission stands ready to support parents. We really want to see the parenting landscape change,”Kerr said. – JIS