Grab bar ladder at the edge of a swimming pool

Amid record-breaking temperatures this summer, I’m reminded of a piece of advice floating around the internet, “When entering a pool, don’t take the stairs.” I couldn’t find a single attribution for this maxim, but I have reflected on its connection to home visiting’s work to advance equity and support families.

If you’ve been around home visiting the last few years, you’ve likely heard about—or engaged in—efforts relating to parent leadership, parent voice, and co-creation with parents. Involving parents in home visiting programs is not new. Home visitors have long adapted and tailored services to family needs, and Head Start has included family engagement as a core component since the 1960s. But more recent initiatives have emerged to center parent involvement, leadership, and voice in home visiting and early childhood. These include the HV CoIIN work on parent leadership; state efforts like Michigan’s Home Visiting Initiative; the Native American Professional Parent Resources group; and the Parent and Family Leaders Council of the National Association for Family, School, and Community Engagement.

The National Home Visiting Network—which facilitates a space for learning, sharing, and aligning home visiting efforts—has also “jumped into the parent leadership pool.” In 2021, the Network invited three parent leaders to join its Network Advisory Committee. A recent brief, Parents at the Table, reflects on the experience and lessons learned by parents and the committee during the past 2 years. It joins a growing number of tools and resources to help programs and agencies begin or continue their parent leadership journey.

Parents at the Table highlights key aspects of authentically engaging parents as leaders and offers firsthand perspective on onboarding parents and supporting their full participation. The authors also acknowledge necessary changes made by the Network Advisory Committee to build trusting, inclusive partnerships. Readers will learn some of the expected and unexpected benefits of bringing parents to the table—not just for the parents, but for shaping home visiting practice, policy, and research.

It’s time to stop dipping our toes into the waters of parent leadership and to jump, just like the Network. Come on in—the water’s warm!