Excellence award honors Extension Parenting Team’s support for underserved families

Cradleboard practice
Participants in WSU Extension Parenting Team’s Positive Indian Parenting course practice the traditional skill of lacing a cradleboard for a young child.

Helping underserved families in Washington State grow healthy skills for life, the WSU Extension Parenting Team was honored this summer for efforts on behalf of equity and inclusivity.

Parenting Team faculty members Kayla Wells-Yoakum, AnaMaria Diaz-Martinez, Brittany Cooper, Jennifer Leach, Louise Parker, and Diane Smith received the Western Extension Director’s Association‘s Award for Excellence in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, during the organization’s joint summer meeting, June 29, 2022, in Concord, Calif. This award recognizes outstanding achievement by Extension professionals in reaching traditionally underrepresented populations.

The Extension Parenting Team supports the health of caregivers, parents, and children across Washington, helping build resilient families, enhancing positive parent-caregiver-child interactions, and reducing risks.

Kayla Wells-Yoakum
Kayla Wells-Yoakum

“Without the culturally adapted programming led by our team, we would be missing key audiences often left out of traditional parenting programs,” said Wells-Yoakum, Parenting Team member and associate professor in WSU Extension. “We are doing what Extension does best, serving the needs of our communities, and doing so with a focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

Formed in 1999 to provide training and assistance through the Strengthening Families Program for Parents and Youth 10-14 (SFP 10-14), the Parenting Team has expanded its scope to meet diverse childhood development stages, family needs, and cultures. The team focuses on two traditionally underserved populations: Latino and Native American families; Washington is one of the top ten states with the largest Native American population, and more than 13 percent of Washingtonians are Latinx or Hispanic.

The original Strengthening Families program has reached tens of thousands of Washington families. Participants report significant improvements on rules about substance use, positive involvement, family harmony and open communication.

Other successful, award-winning programs include Positive Indian Parenting, a program based on traditional Native American child-rearing practices that applies those practices to parenting today; Fortaleciendo Familias, a culturally-adapted version of SFP 10-14 delivered entirely in Spanish; and Guiding Good Choices, which promotes healthy, protective parent–child interactions and addresses children’s risk for early substance use. Members of the Extension Parenting Team are trained as both facilitators and trainers for all four programs.

During the COVID pandemic, the transition to virtual learning pushed the team to adapt and innovate, ultimately helping programs be more inclusive, accessible, and valuable for parents.

Traditional in-person activities were adapted to meet the needs of virtual audiences, and culturally relevant activities were introduced. The team has also expanded virtual facilitator trainings, offering sessions in English and Spanish, and more than 330 positive parenting podcasts have been downloaded, as well as shared with parents and school counselors.

“Our Extension Parenting Team thanks WSU Extension leadership and Associate Dean and Director Vicki McCracken for recognition that our work has always been about supporting diversity, equity and inclusivity, and for encouraging us to submit for the award,” Wells-Yoakum said.

“This team is highly deserving of the excellence award,” McCracken commented. “Together, they’ve done innovative work in reaching and helping families learn, grow, and be more resilient. They have been able to enhance their impact by effectively working together as a team.  Please join me, and their peers across the West, in congratulating them.”

Serving the western U.S. states, territories, and protectorates, WEDA supports members’ Extension organization through education, facilitating stakeholder input, and developing collaborative environments and partnerships. Learn about WEDA at https://weda.extension.org