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The Georgia Parent Mentor Partnership is an alliance of parents and professionals working together to improve outcomes for students with disabilities by enhancing communication and collaboration between families, educators and the community.
The Partnership includes parent mentors, who are parents of children with disabilities hired by the district to support family engagement, as well as special education directors and other administrators, teachers, and support personnel within the district. Funding, equal to about one-half of the mentor’s salary, and technical assistance is provided to the Partnership by the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) Division for Special Education Services and Supports.
Parent mentors are parents who support other parents by providing information and resources to help their children succeed in school and transition from school to adult life. The mentors work to increase parent participation in IEP meetings, provide information related to improving reading and math, and help parents locate needed services and supports.
Mentors also work with teachers, staff, and administrators to integrate family engagement into school and district activities and to build a culture in which family engagement is expected and valued. Across the state, mentors have had an important role in projects that address improving reading and math achievement, increasing graduation rate, decreasing dropout rate, and improving post-school outcomes. Mentors also partner with over 700 Title I Parent Involvement Coordinators to align their work with district family engagement activities for at-risk students.
Parent mentors also work to support integration of students with disabilities into the community. They often work with community partners to increase vocational training and job opportunities as well as recreational options for students. In some districts, parent mentors work with private and public organizations to improve graduation rates of students with disabilities through implementing research-based programs designed to keep students in school and working toward a general education diploma.
The Parent Mentor Partnership also strives to build parent leadership capacity. The Partnership’s Parent Leadership Coalition consists of almost twenty parent leaders partnering with veteran school system administrators and the GaDOE Family Engagement Specialist to plan statewide and regional activities and guide the work of the Partnership.
The Partnership has been featured at state, regional, and national conferences and has worked with the National State Directors of Special Education to develop CAFEs (Circles of Adults Focusing on Education), a model for addressing important topics in special education.