Empowering Latino Parents for Healthier Families

Padres Efectivos facilitator training at El Futuro, Photo Credit: El Futuro

Pictured Above: El Futuro Executive Director Luke Smith, MD., welcomes Padres Efectivos facilitators to training, Photo Credit: El Futuro

July 25, 2019 – Latino parents in Durham and Orange County are now feeling more empowered to effectively advocate for and support their children’s whole health, following participation in a new pilot project called Padres Efectivos, a DHHS-funded project at El Futuro

El Futuro is a nonprofit outpatient clinic that provides comprehensive mental health services for Latino families in a bilingual environment of healing and hope. The clinic provides direct services to clients as well as training to help others provide more effective services, such as outpatient mental health services, community and rural support, training and technical assistance and research and evaluation.

A new group psychoeducational model for Latino parents, Padres Efectivos was originally developed at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as a Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute project called "Helping Latino Parents Learn Skills to Manage Their Children's Mental Health Care." There, it was led by principal investigator Kathleen Thomas, Ph.D. This project was specifically for Latino parents, and it evolved based on feedback from participating parents, with expert guidance from Dr. Gabriela Livas-Stein, Ph.D., UNC Clinical Psychology professor and a Latina, to be a culturally responsive intervention designed by, for, and with Latino immigrant families in North Carolina.

Latino communities face cultural, linguistic and other barriers that hinder them from attaining mental health care and overall wellness. Padres Efectivos project helped families and met them where they are, relying on familiar community leaders to building trust and explored ways to talk about mental health, in order to dispel myths and encourage people to get help and grow. 

The Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services recognized how this project could bridge that health equity gap and has provided $60,000 in funding, along with technical assistance, to support the strategic approach of El Futuro and its partners. 

Padres Efectivos facilitator training at El Futuro, Photo Credit: El Futuro






Pictured Above: Padres Efectivos facilitator training at El Futuro, Photo Credit: El Futuro

Nine community organizations in Durham and Orange County, from schools to health clinics and churches supported 16 facilitators for this project, which ran from Jan. 1 to June 30, 2019. With lead up planning and post-analysis time, 10 groups met for a total of 40 sessions, serving 62 parents in two counties over the course of three months. Groups of five to eight parents met in four weekly one-hour discussion group sessions, conducted in Spanish only. The sessions included role plays, homework, parent-to-parent support and relaxation techniques to support the parents’ well-being. 
“This is empowering them to speak up and not be afraid to use their voice,” said Luke Smith, El Futuro Executive Director and Medical Director. 

Some Latino parents may not be aware that they are allowed and should speak up to advocate for their children and be actively involved in the community that supports their children. Classes taught parent activation skills, such as goal-setting, questions, explaining, listening, understanding and clarifying. These skills presented a guide for having effective communication with their children, providers, and school personnel. 

Following completion of the series, one parent reflected on the experience. “I learned that I have rights if I have questions; I have the right to ask for more information and to understand what they are telling me. In schools, one has to ask for help considering hierarchy. I talked to my son about a problem he had with the teachers, I used the communication skills I learned in Padres Efectivos, and I talked calmly with my son. I asked for a conference with the teachers after that, during the conference I was better prepared, I felt listened to and left with less doubts. I learned my son is receiving bullying. Now we are working together with school personnel. I have a better communication with my son now, I do not get mad with him, I listen to him.” 

Listening is key for staff when it comes to supporting people’s mental health. After completing Padres Efectivos, participants were more aware they can come to El Futuro for follow up and mental health care. Since the project began, El Futuro saw a 20% increase in people using services, compared with a year ago. El Futuro continues to expand and enhance what they offer, from planting a community garden, to building benches and tables outside and offering community yoga classes.

The Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services continues to partner with El Futuro for more culturally responsive mental health care and community outreach. El Futuro is in the Lakewood Shopping Center at 2020 Chapel Hill Road, #23, in Durham. 

Lindsay K. Saunders