Helping a Parent-Child Network Meet New Challenges

The Vermont Parent Child Center Network is a coalition of 15 legislatively designated centers that provide children, youth, and families with strengths-based, holistic, and collaborative services with a focus on child development and family support. The network is primarily state-funded and provides leadership, support and advocacy on behalf of its membership.


The Network sought an outside facilitator to guide it through a process where members could get back in touch with the group’s core mission and values, and agree on how to move forward in a structured way that would meet new environmental challenges and assure internal member accountability.

What We Did

In order to uncover the Network’s shared values, Youth Catalytics (then NEN) facilitated an initial session and then followed up with a strategic planning retreat. We used processes that encourage participation from all members and that draw on a group’s history and successes to plan for the future.

During the first session, we:

  • Created a robust timeline dating back to PCCN’s inception, looking for patterns and accomplishments
  • Led the group to agreement about why it exists, what the members believe in and what’s blocking their progress
  • Facilitated a consensus activity to optimize their effectiveness
  • Prioritized list of immediate action steps and put them on a three-month calendar

The strategic planning retreat one month later included:

  • Progress updates and assessment of work still to be done
  • An ‘environmental scan’ based on findings from 13 stakeholder interviews we conducted before the retreat
  • Exploring elements of good mission statements, re-examining PCCN’s and drafting several  new versions
  • A vision process that answered the question ‘What do we want to see in place in three to five years?’
  • An self analysis based on their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats
  • Strategic directions for the Network going forward


This work was undertaken less than a year ago and many of its outcomes are still to be realized. However, five months after the strategic planning retreat, the PCCN reported that our work resulted in:

  • Empowerment and high motivation to move forward with action steps
  • Improved meeting efficiency using processes and techniques learned during consultation
  • Strengthened partnership with the State
  • Tangible tools like a new mission statement, revised handbook and yearly planning calendar
  • A stronger desire to work together constructively in a culture of accountability
  • An increased commitment to, and use of thoughtful and sensitive communication among members

This recent work is the first step in building a base for longer-term benefits to PCCN’s clients — children, youth and families. Over time, strengthened relationships can sustain quality practice through information and resource sharing, staff retainment, member support and constructive problem-solving. Improved measurement efforts can lead to meaningful shared data and a competitive edge for new funding.


“Due to Melanie Goodman’s level of skill, she was able to move our group through significant work and the development of our annual goals. I truly believe that this was not because we had a facilitator, but because of who we had as a facilitator. Melanie spent a tremendous amount of time prepping for our meeting and this was evident throughout the day. I can’t thank her enough for her patience, genuineness, and diverse skill set that was truly invaluable to our network.”
~ Danielle Lindley, NCSS, Inc., St. Albans, VT

“NEN has been an essential resource in my professional life. My experience with staff consultation in strategic planning and other organizational planning and development has been exceptionally positive and productive. I would highly recommend that any professional in the field of human services familiarize themselves with this wonderful organization and its tremendous staff.”
~ Kimberly-Ann Coe, Lund, Burlington, VT

Facing a special challenge or being presented with a new opportunity? Contact us. We can help.

(Photo courtesy of Cat Cutillo at Lund, one of Vermont’s 15 Parent-Child Centers.)