Connecticut Commission on Children: An Agency of the Connecticut General Assembly
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Connecticut wins Kellogg Foundation grant to expand innovative parent leadership program

May 20, 2014
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Elaine Zimmerman
(860) 240-0290

HARTFORD—The Connecticut Commission on Children has won a $500,000, two-year Innovative Practices in Parent Leadership grant from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation for a national expansion of the Commission’s ground-breaking Parent Leadership Training Institute (PLTI).

The funding will also allow broadening the program to a two-generation strategy, so that it includes the children of participating parents, and translating the PLTI curriculum into different languages.

In addition, the grant will fund several Connecticut-based initiatives, including: the design and implementation of a social media strategy for parent leaders to communicate with each other about their civic work and best policies for improved child outcomes; providing resources for the development of a family civics continuum in Hartford, where parents can pick different ways to be engaged in their communities; and research and training to maximize partnerships between parents and public schools.

The Kellogg Foundation, one of the world’s largest private foundations, had received more than 1,100 applications for the parent leadership funding—the most ever for a single funding opportunity in its 83-year history. It ultimately backed just 30 organizations, including the Commission on Children.

"We’re so honored to be chosen for this investment," said Commission on Children Executive Director Elaine Zimmerman. "The Kellogg Foundation believes it received so many applications for this funding because of growing national interest in parent engagement and family civics, and our own experience in recent years certainly confirms that. In a time of declining gains for children in public policy, the family has become a pivotal constituency for sharing what children need to thrive and succeed, both in school and in the workforce."

More than 3,000 graduates

The Commission on Children led in the creation of PLTI in 1992, after it became apparent that many parents wanted to get involved in civic affairs but felt they lacked the skills to do so. The 20-week program changes that by training parents in public speaking, budget making, using outcome measures, communicating through the media, accountability, and educating others on how good public policies for children can benefit everyone. The training attracts a significantly diverse group of parents across culture, race, and age and education level; 30 percent are Hispanic, 23 percent African-American, 28 percent Caucasian, and 5 percent Asian.

So far, more than 3,000 parents, grandparents, and guardians have received their PLTI diplomas, which are handed out each June in a ceremony at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.

Because PLTI is one of the few parent leadership models to comprehensively evaluate its results, it can show that its graduates have improved government on both the state and local levels, creating greater access, diversity, equity, and quality for children’s policy and programs. For instance, the latest data shows that while only 22 percent of parents had a clear understanding of how state budgets were made before undergoing PLTI training, fully 97 percent understood it afterward. Likewise, the percentage of those who could speak publicly in support of a goal at a community meeting tripled. Attendance at town council or school board meetings increased by nearly 30 percent.

With a two-decade track record of success, PLTI has been recognized by leaders in state and local government, education, business, social services, and philanthropy as a critical vehicle for improving Connecticut’s child outcomes. Partners include the William Casper Graustein Memorial Fund, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, the Liberty Bank Foundation, People’s United Bank, and the Connecticut Center for School Change.

To learn more about PLTI in Connecticut, contact the Commission on Children at (860) 240-0290 or visit

The Commission also has created a philanthropy-funded arm for national replication. Already, the PLTI model has been replicated in 15 other states and cities. For information on these efforts, contact the National Parent Leadership Institute at (860) 327-0477 or visit

About the Commission on Children: Created with bipartisan support in 1985 by the Connecticut General Assembly, the Commission on Children brings together the various levels of government, the private sector, nonprofit agencies, and philanthropy to promote public policies in the best interests of children. Its board members, who serve as volunteers, are appointed by legislative leaders of both parties. It has a staff of seven. For more information, visit

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