WSA Parent Ambassadors- an Overview

Have a Heart for Kids Day 2010 - Stephenie Browne and Immaculate Fererria-AllahThe WSA Parent Ambassador Program, established in 2009, is made possible with support from WSA as well as our advocacy partners at MomsRising, Child Care Aware of Washington, Save the Children Action Network, Children's Alliance and the Perigee Fund.  The parents selected for this program participate in a yearlong parent advocacy and leadership training program.  They receive training on communications, leadership, legislative advocacy and grassroots organizing, and are responsible for training parents in their local programs and participating in advocacy efforts on both the state and federal level.

Over the years Ambassadors have played a pivotal role in defeating the Governor’s plan to drastically cut child care assistance and ECEAP, and have led the charge for improvements to the child care subsidy system, expanded early learning opportunities for children in the child welfare system, and the expansion of ECEAP to all eligible children. Ambassadors have provided regular testimony on key issues that impact children and families including funding for early childhood education, TANF, and WAKIDS—a kindergarten readiness assessment process. Ambassadors have been featured in newspapers, TV and radio including coverage on KIRO 7, NPR, KING 5, KOMO 4 and KHQ.

Because of the buzz surrounding the program within the early childhood community, ambassadors have been requested to speak at National Head Start Association institutes and state training conferences, conducting successful training in Washington DC and Pennsylvania. They trained other parents how to give effective testimony, mobilize members of their community, and write effective letters to the editor -- several of which were published. The Parent Ambassador program has been expanded to six other states as part of other Head Start Associations and Educare, and it is a founding member of the United Parent Leaders Action Network.

Click here for a summary of Parent Ambassador successes & media, and click here for testimonials.

Making Parent Voices Heard

In Washington State there is considerable energy around early learning, and the need to have parent voices included in this process is more important than ever.

Often parents, especially low income parents, are left out of critical discussions. The Parent Ambassadors’ Program provides opportunities for parents to be heard. Here are just a few examples of how parent ambassadors give real voice to their concerns and opinions:

  • Ambassadors have an opportunity to interface directly with their lawmakers at the state and federal level as well as the Governor;
  • Ambassadors sit on specific advisory groups and committees put together by the Department of Early Learning, Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, and other state agencies;
  • Ambassadors participate in Association meetings and are seen as leaders in WSA parent affiliate group meetings;
  • Ambassadors participate in early learning coalition activities locally or through state wide coalition;
  • Ambassadors engage national organizations like the Children’s Defense Fund, National Women’s Law Center, Center for Community Change and National Head Start Association;
  • Ambassadors engage other parents about how to effectively and strategically make their voices heard; and
  • Ambassadors take active roles in coalition building at the national, state, and local levels.

Training for Parent Ambassadors

Parent Ambassadors go through an extensive year long advocacy training program. Parents learn the basics of government, about specific pieces of legislation, how to contact their lawmakers, how to provide effective testimony, social media advocacy and how to engage parents in their community.  Parent Ambassadors also receive training on important leadership skills - communications, team-building, goal-setting, conflict management, etc - that enable them to be more effective leaders and advocates.

Education, Training, and Mobilization

After several trainings, Ambassadors are expected to take what they have learned and educate, train, and mobilize parents back at their local programs and in their communities. Ambassadors are the crucial link to their communities.  Ambassadors provide grassroots training at their Head Start/ECEAP parent policy council meeting and teach parents about pending legislation. Ambassadors are expected to provide frequent updates to parents in their local programs and communities about legislative issues directly affecting their families and strategic opportunities to weigh in with both state and federal elected officials.

Parent Ambassadors by the Numbers

Over the last 10 years:

  • 48 legislative hearings in Olympia feature Parent Ambassador testimony.
  • 2400 phone/email contacts with state and federal elected officials.
  • 480 in-person visits with elected officials to talk about issues important to low income parents.
  • 48 letters to the editor published.
  • 120 meetings (in person and conference calls) with high-level state and federal agency decision makers.
  • 50 local program visits hosted for legislators, members of Congress, or media.
  • 800 presentations by Parent Ambassadors to other parents on advocacy and issues.
  • 8000 parents educated by Parent Ambassadors on advocacy and issues.
  • 64 media interviews with Parent Ambassadors on television, radio or newspapers.
  • 80 community events organized.
  • 2000 members of local communities reached by Parent Ambassadors.

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