Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Laying Those Bridges: A Case Study on the Construction of a Family Resource Center
by Angoff, Elizabeth Diane, Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, 2011, 163; 3469211
Abstract (Summary)

Providing quality educational opportunities for minority children in poor, urban neighborhoods presents a significant and urgent problem for educators, activists, researchers and community members. To begin to address this problem, it is essential to clearly define the various components of the situation and be succinct about the questions we are trying to answer. This dissertation specifically addresses the issue of family resources and how the existence or lack thereof can profoundly affect students' home lives, which in turn affects their ability to perform in school. The project documents and analyzes the creation of a Family Resource Center (FRC) at a small school in a diverse, urban neighborhood, where most families live below the poverty line. The project documented here is a case study in the form of a "committed experiment," because the researcher was also intricately involved in the creation of the FRC over the course of the two and a half year study.

The current literature is markedly sparse in terms of studies examining effective models for developing Family Resource Centers in urban communities. The literature on full-service schools comes close and has provided a framework for the preliminary steps in creating the FRC in this study. In order to fully develop the literature base, I drew from three additional literatures: Parent Involvement, Consultee-Centered Consultation and Popular Education. These four areas of literature together build on each other to create a strong foundation for the creation of the FRC.

This study presents multiple findings. First, chapter 2 demonstrates the different perceptions of school staff and parents regarding the most important aspects of the FRC. Namely, the parents interviewed focused on the importance of the space itself while the school staff members interviewed named specific resources that might be offered. In chapter 3, a study within this study, which involved three parents in a Participatory Action Research project on parent involvement, laid the foundation for the development of our parent involvement practices of parent-focused conversations, establishing a safe space, and creating a ‘backdoor’ to the school. Finally, chapter 4 articulates the unique training process used to support parent employees in their work with families in need. The training method combines the philosophy and methods of Consultee-Centered Consultation, a mental health training model designed to support non-mental health professionals engaged in difficult cases, with Popular Education, an empowering process of engaging community members as experts in solving the problem at hand. This chapter also demonstrates the methods of parent engagement and support developed by the parent employees themselves through their experience and the daily reflective process that was part of their training.

The conclusion further develops these findings into a multifaceted theory of FRC development and parent empowerment through education and action. The model focuses on engaging parents as equals, utilizing their knowledge and expertise to drive the creation of the FRC, and to successfully bridge the long-standing divide of culture, values, class and experience between school staff and disenfranchised parents within poor, urban communities.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Hurst, John
Commitee: Leonardo, Zeus, Stone, Susan
School: University of California, Berkeley
Department: Education
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 72/11, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Educational psychology, Individual & family studies
Keywords: Consultation, Family resource centers, Parent involvement, Participatory action research, Popular education, Urban education
Publication Number: 3469211
ISBN: 978-1-124-84864-8
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