By Charla Ricciardi
Interim CSHCN Director
PLTI State Coordinator and Facilitator
Wyoming Department of Health
PLTI State Coordinator and Facilitator
Susan, a Wyoming Parent Leadership Training Institute (PLTI) participant, smiles and revels in the applause from fellow parent leaders as she completes her final speech for the Laramie County PLTI. Susan has just detailed her work to establish an autism support and educational nonprofit in the Cheyenne, WY area. Susan’s required community project as a parent leader focused on autism, because as a grandmother raising a grandson with autism, she realized the unfulfilled need. Through the PLTI retreat, 20-week curriculum and community project, she gained the tools
necessary to emerge as a more effective and civic leader. Susan is one of 16 graduates of the PLTI of Laramie County pilot project who committed
to over 70 hours of training and countless additional hours preparing for class, working on projects and telling others about their exponential growth because of PLTI.
The Parent Leadership Training Institute came to Wyoming through Eileen Forlenza, AMCHP board member and Colorado Director of the Medical Home Initiative. According to Elaine Zimmerman, Executive Director of the Connecticut Commission on Children, Colorado “has embedded the PLTI curriculum in five Colorado counties, and inspires other states to lead.” Their partnership allowed the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) to take part in PLTI training in Denver in October 2009. Wyoming Department of Health staff felt this golden opportunity could not be passed by and chose to push ahead to assure PLTI could be up and running in Wyoming in a few short months.
Wyoming Department of Health staff and four facilitators were certified, returned to Wyoming, and hit the ground running to prepare for a pilot class in Laramie County. December brought snowfall and Connecticut’s National Training Team to further share the PLTI initiative with Laramie County residents and train the volunteers for the PLTI Civic Design Team. The newly trained Laramie County team and WDH employees then turned their focus on the recruitment and education of community members, key supporters and participants. On February 20, 2010, the pilot class held their retreat at the Cheyenne Family YMCA. The fruition of hard work and pure grit to ensure the start of this class was unfolding before the Laramie County Team’s eyes! Despite all obstacles that naturally occur over the span of 20 weeks, 16 graduates will take part in their graduation ceremony in the rotunda of the Wyoming State Capitol Building in July.
As Zimmerman says, "Parent leadership is about democracy. Once they understand and practice the skills of public policy, budgets, prevention, public speaking, and outcome analysis, they are natural and elegant leaders for the young. PLTI enables a diversity of parents, across class and culture, to become leading advocates for children.” The 16 graduates have learned these skills and are no longer intimidated by what they do not know, but rather empowered by what they have gained. The PLTI Team of Laramie County knows the graduates will go on to advocate and lobby Wyoming legislators, serve on state-level boards and remain change agents in their local community. Charla Ricciardi, Interim Children Special Health Care Needs (CSHCN) Director, says, “Parent involvement and civic leadership are crucial steps in making lasting change for current and future generations in Wyoming. The Parent Leadership Training Institute is not about providing a service to participants; instead it teaches civics to those who desire to make a difference in the lives of children.”
The WDH will continue to champion and recognize the value of parents to make grassroots change on behalf of children through the PLTI model. With planned site expansion into two additional counties in Wyoming during 2010, PLTI graduates will make an impact throughout Wyoming as the initiative grows. Wyoming should not only be known for its astounding natural wonders, but for its astounding parent leaders as well. For more information about the Wyoming PLTI, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Background information on PLTI:
The Parent Leadership Training Institute (PLTI) was created by the Connecticut Commission on Children. Through outreach efforts the Commission listened to many parents that felt their voices were not being heard and that they lacked the advocacy skills necessary to make changes in the lives of their children. In response, they created the PLTI, which is now being implemented in many states and communities.
The mission of PLTI: The Parent Leadership Training Institute seeks to enable parents to become leading advocates for children. Parents’ opinions are often unheard. They lack advocacy skills, but not the motivation or will to change their children’s lives. The PLTI teaches parents to become practiced change agents for the next generation.
The program integrates child development, leadership and democracy skills into a parent leadership curriculum that consists of two 10-week phases (total of 20 weeks). The PLTI facilitation team creates learning conditions that enable parents to integrate leadership skills, public policy and democracy tools for use in family, community and civic contexts. The PLTI includes strong experiential learning components, including a community civics project that each participant engages in. For more information about PLTI visit: www.cga.ct/gov/coc/plti.htm.