Author: Karen Copeland
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to meet Laurie Schulz a local counselor with Expression Counselling here in Abbotsford. She was leading a group I was attending for parents and caregivers. During one of the sessions, Laurie spoke to us about the Three C’s (now, the Four C’s) – this being that we all need and want to feel connected, to feel capable, to feel like we count and to have courage. It was like a light bulb went off for me in that moment. The whole concept was like a guidebook to me – I could recall times when I had felt this way and how amazing this was, and then I could recall the times where I didn’t. That was a completely different feeling! Anchoring these feelings to my own adult experiences also gave me the opportunity to explore when I had honoured the four C’s in my relationship with my children, and when I had not, and how each of them might be feeling about this. To this day, when I reflect on interactions that have not gone so well, I can identify where it went sideways, perhaps I wasn’t feeling like I was capable, or I didn’t feel like I counted. And then using those reflections, I can thoughtfully consider decisions on how to best respond.
After I had completed the group, I continued to connect in with Laurie so we could discuss these four C’s and how they influence our lives. Through these conversations I discovered that Laurie was passionate about creating spaces for voices to be brought forward and heard. Not unlike someone else I know! This was the start of many collaborations between the two of us. I want to share these with you – not only because I am extremely proud of the work Laurie and I have done together, but for another reason … which I will bring forward later.
Laurie and I have worked on four projects together now. We started with a session called “Building Relationships with the Four C’s” and it was designed to be open for parents and professionals to attend. Together. At the same time. Laurie and I both believe that we all need to be in the room and hearing from each other. The session went better than either of us expected. We had done quite a bit of preparing in advance, so to have a positive response was rewarding. We also received some great feedback about what we could do differently – we added that to our to-do list for future sessions.
Our next collaboration was a big one. With the support of Impact Youth Substance Use Services, Brian Gross, Laurie and I put together a parent panel presentation for the Ministry of Child and Family Development Continuous Quality Improvement Congress. This was another opportunity to bring the parent voice and expertise forward to others, but in a very controlled and safe way. Laurie and I spent a large amount of time preparing the parents for this role. We wanted them to feel supported and safe to share their stories. While there were definitely some challenges due to the limitations of the venue, the parents’ experiences were definitely heard by those attending, and this was also reflected in the feedback process.
Our next project was an extension of our first Four C’s presentation, and this time we brought Ashley Robinson, an Elementary School Teacher on board to also share her experiences of using this concept in the classroom. Again, the presentation was open to parents and professionals to attend. The session was well received, and it was heartening to hear everyone opening up and sharing about their experiences and how they were connecting to the material.
Our most recent collaboration was again, the creation of a parent panel of experts – this time for the Reaching Out Together International Social Work Conference at the University of the Fraser Valley. Laurie and I were able to create the space for the voices of five parents to SHINE and educate others. This was an incredibly powerful session – and because of this I have about three blog posts dedicated to it to be shared soon.
There is one thing that happens with all of these sessions that I don’t think we comment on or draw attention to enough. Throughout all of our projects together, Laurie and I have demonstrated and modelled how communication and collaboration can look between a parent and a professional. At our most recent panel session, Laurie and I flipped our introductions – I introduced her and she introduced me. This was purposeful. We wanted to show our mutual respect and regard for each other – not just as collaborators but as people. We wanted to inspire those in the room to look at parents as being full partners in projects and processes.
In essence, that we are definitely capable of being passionate about an idea or a cause; that we can be connected in ways that perhaps no one considered before; that our voices count, our knowledge matters and can even drive the conversation forward. All of this took courage from both Laurie and myself. The courage to look beyond the labels of parent and professional, setting aside any preconceived notions about each other, the courage to explore how we could work together to make a difference.
In all my projects going forward, I am purposeful and intentional about demonstrating and modelling this collaboration between myself and professionals. This includes my involvement with the Abbotsford Special Needs Advisory Committee, as well as my participation on the planning committee for the upcoming Collaborating for a Family Friendly Abbotsford forum. I have a few other collaborative projects on the go and am looking forward to announcing these at some point soon.
And of course, my collaboration with Laurie will continue to go forward, and I am sure you can expect to see some pretty amazing things result from it.
If you are interested in exploring hosting a parent panel in your area, please feel free to contact Laurie and myself via this Contact Form.