REACH Resident AAP CATCH Grant Update #2: Parenting Group Support Classes

Georgia Griffin, MD
Pediatric Resident, PGY-3
Seattle Children’s Hospital

Hello again from Toppenish, WA! I am one of the Seattle Children’s/University of Washington pediatric residents in the Resident Education and Advocacy for Child Health (REACH) Pathway, where residents have dedicated time to explore pediatric health in a community context. As third year residents, we spend two months in Toppenish, a community in the Lower Yakima Valley where our program has built strong partnerships over the last decade.

The current REACH-Toppenish cohort received an AAP CATCH grant to pilot a parent group support class in collaboration with Parents As Teachers (PAT), a national program offered to parents of children 0 to 5 years, in the Lower Yakima Valley. Community listening sessions and interviews highlighted the need for informal space for caregivers to connect with one another. Surveys from a total of 60 parents in the community illustrated an interest in learning how to cope with stress, recognize and respond to their children’s emotions, and support their children’s learning and development.

With this feedback, we decided to apply content (with permission) from Promoting First Relationships (PFR), a program created by the University of Washington to nurture caregivers and promote children’s social-emotional development through responsive caregiver-child relationships. We hope to incorporate teachings from mindful self-compassion as well, and will begin each session with an introduction to mindfulness practice and provide ample time for reflection and sharing. The Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic in Seattle holds parent-led mindfulness groups, which have been a tremendous resource for us as we learn about cultivating a mindfulness practice.

Facilitators on a Zoom call. From left to right, REACH-Toppenish resident, Georgia Griffin MD, and Parents As Teachers educators, Zenaida Munguia, Bianca Llamas, Carina Sanchez, Erica Sanchez, Araceli Parbol, and Mary Flores.

I’ve recently had the opportunity to co-facilitate several pilot sessions with Parents As Teachers family educators. We have had excellent turn-out (12-14 parents per Spanish session; 2-3 parents per English session) and positive feedback. Families have shared how his past year has been hard, in many ways more challenging than the first year of the COVID pandemic. Many have been struggling with the loss of loved ones, unstable housing, isolation, and other stressors. It has been inspiring to see parents show up for these sessions, engage, and share wisdom with each other. The PAT educators have been a familiar face for parents at each session and helped them feel more comfortable sharing. Many parents have also had medical questions about their children, which have spurred important discussions about vaccines, safe sleep, mental health, and development. For me, this highlights the importance of continued partnerships with pediatricians in the community. We have sought feedback after each session and plan to continue co-facilitating sessions with PAT through the spring.  In the future, we hope these sessions may be parent-led as well! 

Stay tuned for the next article in this series – we plan to continue writing updates on our CATCH grant project as our cohort rotates through Toppenish! If you have any questions or comments, feel free to email Reach.Toppenish@gmail.com

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