A Look into LIFT’s Program Design Process: Parent Listening Tour, Part 2 of 2

By LIFT on August 30, 2016

Categories: Our Work


Earlier this month we introduced blog readers to LIFT’s program design process. A key part of that process is our commitment to elevating the voices of our members. And that was the focus for LIFT at the beginning of this year as we engaged parents in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Washington, D.C. in a listening tour.

Our goal was to hear directly from our members the aspirations they had for their families and obstacles they faced trying to make those dreams a reality – all to help inform our work moving forward. We repeatedly heard from parents and caregivers about their commitment and dreams for their children. Despite the rich and varied backgrounds of LIFT’s families, we heard that almost all parents and caregivers want the same things we all want for our families. Some common themes that were raised included:

  • A secure, safe environment where their families can grow and thrive. Parents want their children to have stable housing and live in neighborhoods where children can run around the playground and not fear being victims of violence or crime.
  • To develop strong, healthy relationships with their children. LIFT members – many of whom are first-time parents – hope to build supportive networks around their children and aspire to form strong relationships with their children and be strong role models in their lives.
  • Ensure the physical and mental health of their families. Parents hope to provide their children with high-quality health services, mental health services and healthy, nourishing food.
  • Secure high-quality education opportunities for their children. Many LIFT members live in communities where access to high-quality K-12 schools is either limited or difficult to navigate. Parents know education is a key lever for success and that strong academic foundations can provide access to greater prosperity.

Parents are not only united in their aspirations for their families, but we also learned that many face similar challenges to reaching their goals.

“The job that I have, I’m just working to have some change in my pocket. I’m not making anything really,” said Diamond, mother of three from New York.

Then there is the lack of time. Because so many of the members we serve are single parents, and often lack strong support networks, they have a lot on their plate.

“I just wish I had some more physical support with [my children]…I’m playing five different roles,” said Anastasia, a single mom of two and full-time college student from Chicago.

Juggling work, school or looking for employment, raising children and much more with limited financial resources, support, time and information is often overwhelming and stressful. Parents explained that many of the services that would benefit their families are non-existent in their communities, hard to access or simply unaffordable.

This summer, thanks to generous support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, LIFT continued our work gathering parent perspectives. This time focusing on how to better engage parents in their children’s educational outcomes. A report scheduled to be released next month will feature additional research about what we know about parent engagement, as well as parent case studies that share – in their own words – the aspirations and barriers these moms and dads experience when engaging with their children’s schools and communities. This latest piece of work highlights our ongoing commitment to designing programs that truly meet the needs of the people we serve.