A Conversation with the Family Network Collaborative

Contributors: Bryn Fortune, FNC Coordinator and Steven Thibert, FNC Parent Leader

One reason that Early Relational Health (ERH) concepts are catching fire is because the growing Nurture Connection movement through its commitment and focus on family partnership is being guided by the wisdom and expertise of parents.

Bryn Fortune oversees the Early Relational Health parent contingent through the Family Network Collaborative (FNC) in her role as Coordinator for the FNC Collaborative. For Bryn, empowering authentic parent voices is the best and most exciting work that she’s ever done.

The result is a novel parent group that is 66 parent leaders strong and represents all regions of the country as well as key groups that haven’t traditionally been heard in family health spaces, including African American families, Indigenous families, Spanish-speaking immigrant families, fatherhood perspectives, families of children with special health needs and disabilities, families receiving home visiting services, and families residing in the rural South.

“What’s wonderful about this initiative is the commitment of our leadership,” Bryn shared. “This is the strongest and most unique model I’ve ever seen.”

As the FNC has worked to establish a “living room language” for the movement, Bryn noted the importance of ongoing discovery. “Any time we get exposed to something, our view and perspective changes.”

Cultural context of parent groups also informs the work. Bryn reported that Spanish-speaking-immigrant and indigenous parent members’ initial response to ERH concepts was, ‘We’re so glad you guys are figuring out what we have known forever. This relational health concept is part of our culture.’

Steven Thibert of Washington State works with Bryn as the FNC’s fatherhood parent leader. As a father who had to fight hard for joint custody of his young son, he understands firsthand the need for comprehensive support for all parents in countless situations.

“I’m passionate about ERH because our kids are our future,” Steven shared. “All parents deserve to have the resources and the support to be able to provide that strong emotional connection with their child from infancy.”

Steven sees power in the family partnership that’s at the movement’s core. “It’s bringing the family voice and making sure that all parent voices are seen, heard, and valued. Parents are so grateful to feel heard,” he said.

The FNC’s rare and refreshing “culture of candor” resonates deeply for Steven and its members. “There’s no filter put on parents,” Steven marveled. “In fact, anytime there is a difference of opinion, it’s brought to the surface and encouraged.”

Steven’s outward enthusiasm for engaging more communities of aligned parents is contagious. “It feels like our movement is on the ground level of something that can help change the world,” he said.