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Discovering a New Way to Engage Families and Providers in Meaningful Conversations

The CCC Model describes a process of guided conversations that help to promote optimal development of very young children.

By Jodi Whiteman, Co-Director, Professional Development and Workforce Innovations

At ZERO TO THREE, we believe that a strong start for babies and toddlers depends on responsive, nurturing relationships with their parents and providers. Research supports this belief, confirming that a strong relationship between parents and providers leads to good outcomes for babies and toddlers. We also know that finding the time for parents and providers to have meaningful conversations is challenging. We developed the Caring Conversations Café (CCC) Model to help create the time, space, and structure for parents and providers to come together. At Cafés parents and providers have the opportunity to get to know each other on a deeper level; build their own positive, strong relationships; share unique resources; and develop important new skills for caring for very young children.

The CCC Model is a powerful tool to support families of young children. I’m excited to tell you a little about it and the impact that it is making as it’s being implemented in one state I’ve been working with.

What Is the CCC Model?

The CCC Model describes a process of guided conversations that help to promote optimal development of very young children. These guided conversations foster parent leadership and parent–provider partnership and, in the process, build collective wisdom. As parents and providers identify issues and find ways to address them, they learn and grow together and commit to individual action.

Several years ago, ZERO TO THREE, in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Human Services, created a facilitator guide as a tool for implementing the CCC Model. The facilitator guide outlines seven Café topics that are strategically designed to build the five protective and promotive factors that strengthen families identified by the Center for the Study of Social Policy as key for increasing the probability of positive, adaptive child and family outcomes, even in the face of risk and adversity. Woven throughout the CCC Model and facilitator guide is the role of culture in the well-being and successful functioning of the family.

A Case Study of the CCC Model’s Effectiveness

Beginning a couple of years ago, I have had the privilege of working with Curricula Concepts in Arkansas to implement the CCC Model. ZERO TO THREE colleagues and I provided training to facilitators who have since conducted the Café series with nearly 2,000 parents and providers around the state. Their experience has given us exciting feedback on how well the CCC Model works for empowering and supporting parents and providers!

Early childhood education providers in Arkansas had been searching for a way to better connect with families and connect families with each other; CCC has given them that opportunity. The strength and heart of the CCC model to build provider–family relationships has been the component that has created so much success in Arkansas.

The qualities of Cafés that make them successful are very hard to quantify: connection, relationships, validation, interaction, respect, hope, and trust. But each is a critical component of the child–parent relationship, as well as the parent–provider relationship. The CCC Model has been a success in Arkansas because providers and families have been willing to try a new approach, be vulnerable, and build positive and lasting relationships that benefit the child, family, and the program.

We know they are successful when we hear statements like “When are you coming back for another Café?” and “We can’t wait for the next Café!” Parents and family members become empowered to serve on the planning team and serve as table hosts to facilitate the discussions.

Parents are searching for meaningful interactions and validation that they are doing their best as parents. Cafés give them a “behind the scenes” look at how other families function, and it is always a relief for them to learn that other families don’t have all the answers, and don’t get it right all the time either. They aren’t the only ones who make mistakes: Everyone does.

Café participants feel more connected, validated, and educated. And because of the Café conversations, the providers—who’ve had the best of intentions in providing resources and trainings to the families of the children in their care—are now confirming that they actually KNOW what their families need.

It has been so wonderful to partner with Curricula Concepts in Arkansas to assist in supporting the implementation of the CCC Model. ZERO TO THREE has been thrilled to learn how useful this model is in supporting family engagement and other early childhood initiatives. Participation in the Café topics allow parents and providers to become more involved in their communities and to feel confident assuming leadership roles and in their abilities to support the development of young children. This strengthened partnership provides an opportunity for parents and providers to work together toward common goals in a culturally respectfully manner.

Special thanks to Jamie Morrison Ward, President/Chief Resource and Training Officer at Curricula Concepts, for her contribution to this article and to the success of Caring Conversations Cafés in Arkansas.

Editor’s Note:
The Caring Conversations Café Facilitator Guide is available in the ZERO TO THREE bookstore.

This content is available only to ZERO TO THREE members.

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