National Extension Parenting Educators’ Framework

grow frame develop educate embrace build
Grow Frame Develop Educate Embrace Build
care for self understand guide nurture motivate advocate
Care for Self Understand Guide Nurture Motivate Advocate

This document in .pdf | Summary chart/handout (pdf) | Slides and Audio explaining NEPEF


Parenting education is an emerging professional field in constant flux as it grows to accommodate the diverse needs of families and their children. As the field evolves, a main challenge will be to answer the demand for expansion from academics, government leaders, and parents, all of whom want more parenting education so that children can be successfully guided on their journey to adulthood. These groups and many others have come to recognize that parenting education is one strategy within a larger array of comprehensive family support strategies that is designed to decrease the incidence of child abuse, while increasing school achievement, and enhancing family resiliency.

At present, there are many parent educators who are part of the Cooperative Extension System (CES) of the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). This group of educators has allowed the CES to become one of the principal providers of parenting education in the United States. Underpinning Extension’s programs of parenting education are faculty and staff at this nation’s land-grant universities, whose research advances the field and whose academic programs train the vast number of parent education professionals.

The Framework

In 1992, a team of Extension family life and human development specialists, with the national program staff at the USDA led a national effort to develop a model of “what” to teach parents in parent education programs. The model, called the National Extension Parent Education Model (NEPEM) set forth six categories of priority parenting practices to be learned by parents and taught by parenting educators (Smith, Cudaback, Goddard, and Myers-Walls, 1994).

NEPEM’s six categories of priority practices for parents – Care for Self, Understand, Guide, Nurture, Motivate, and Advocate – guided Extension specialists, educators, and community partners in the development of parent education programs, educational materials, and evaluation instruments which resulted in significant contributions to the national parenting education resource base. An overview of the NEPEM can be found online.

In 2000, an Extension team comprised of state family and human development specialists and staff, and the national program leader for family life and human development met for the purpose of outlining the critical skills and practices of parenting educators. After considerable discussion, this team proposed that the NEPEM’s “priority practices for parents” be melded with a set of “priority processes for parenting educators” to form a new structure – the National Extension Parenting Education Framework (NEPEF).


It was the team’s position that when used in tandem, the six “content” practices for parents and the six “process” practices for educators – Grow, Frame, Develop, Embrace, Educate, and Build – would allow parenting educators to work more effectively with parents on behalf of children.

Extension’s Role in Parenting Education

A History of Leadership

CES faculty have hosted national satellite broadcasts on parenting education, developed a curriculum review website, created a framework for planning and evaluating parenting education programs, established an interactive learning web site for parenting educators, and have conducted research to determine how parents want to learn about parenting.

CES has also engaged in multi-state collaborations around significant parenting issues, and have made a significant number of their research reports and programs available to the public through web-based resources such as the Children, Youth and Families Education and Research Network.

Those who deliver parenting education on behalf of the CES include county extension educators, extension-trained volunteers, master teachers, and collaborating agency personnel as well as professionals from the fields of education, counseling, medicine, mental health, and the social services. These parenting educators conduct programs in a variety of venues, including military installations, faith-based programs, prisons, housing developments, schools, and other community-based settings.

The CES has also developed innovative parenting education programs focused on responsible fatherhood, mentoring teenage mothers, helping grandparents and other relatives to raise children, co-parenting through divorce, and court-ordered parent training. These programs supplement Extensions vast array of basic, “ages and stages” type programs that address the needs of children and their families from conception through adolescence.

The CES has taken a leading role in utilizing diverse methodologies for disseminating parenting education programs, information and materials to those who need them. In addition to the traditional forum of workshops and classes, Extension staff have utilized vehicles such as home-study courses, age-paced newsletters, mentoring relationships, the internet, as well as mass media standards such as newspaper columns, radio and television interviews, and magazine articles.

NEPEF’s Contribution to the Field

As previously mentioned, the field of parenting education is in a state of flux. There is a growing national awareness of need for parenting educators. Yet, there is little consensus within the field as to what constitutes parenting education and who can and should provide it.

Colleges and universities are being asked to develop degree programs to prepare students to become parenting educators. Similarly, national professional organizations, like National Council on Family Relations and the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences, are being asked to develop or expand their licensure and certification processes to cover parenting educators. However, movement toward professional development programs and professional credentials and licensure continues to be slow.

Many practitioners are asking themselves how the field of parenting education can ensure that quality parenting education programs are taught by competent professionals and are looking to others to provide the answer. Within the national CES, family life and human development specialists have decided to utilize NEPEF as the vehicle for meeting our institutional need for professionally trained parenting educators to work in more than 3,100 counties across the United States.

Because the CES is faced with the daunting responsibility of providing sound programming to approximately one million parents annually, it can not wait for others to articulate essential knowledge and skills for the field. The NEPEF provides CES with a structure for making informed decisions about the hiring, training, and professional development needs of its staff.

The CES is committed to remain a leader in the field of parenting education and because of that commitment the CES will insure that the NEPEF is rigorously tested and reviewed. Extension administrators, specialists, educators and community collaborators will debate its merits. Its strengths and weaknesses will be discussed at professional meetings, presented at conferences, and published in professional journals. If its anticipated value as a guide for developing quality programs and hiring and educating quality professionals is realized, CES will offer NEPEF to other organizations and professionals who are interested in helping move the field of parenting education forward.

The NEPEF should not be considered an “end all, be all” document of essential knowledge or practice. Rather, it should be viewed as an attempt to get those professionals who identify themselves as parenting educators to explore the body of knowledge and the repertoire of skills that are necessary to be effective in their work. The NEPEF’s value will lie in its ability to initiate conversations among practitioners about best programs and best practices. Through these dialogues, standards for licensure or certification may be articulated.

Examining the Framework

The National Extension Parenting Educators’ Framework (NEPEF) was created through a cooperative effort of Extension faculty from several universities (The University of Arkansas, The University of Connecticut, The University of Georgia, The North Carolina State University, The Ohio State University, The Oregon State University, and Purdue University).

The NEPEF extends the 1994 National Extension Parenting Education Model (NEPEM) of priority practices to be learned by parents by including priority practices and skills to be learned by parenting educators.
Priority Practices are defined as significant aspects of parenting education that contribute to high quality and effectiveness in programs when implemented.

The NEPEF has two dimensions, each containing six domains of competency. One dimension outlines the Content knowledge needed by parenting educators while the other dimension outlines the Processes that parenting educators need to work effectively with parents and children. A brief overview of each dimension follows.

The Content Dimension

The Content dimension is comprised of NEPEM’s six knowledge domains for parents and the attendant priority practices.

Care for Self includes knowledge about managing stress, managing family resources, getting support from and giving support to other parents, developing a sense of purpose in parenting, setting child-rearing goals; and developing strategies for cooperating with one’s child-rearing partners. Parenting educators are also reminded to recognize and build upon the personal strengths of parents.

Understand: focuses attention on basic knowledge of child development and emphasizes how children can influence as well as be influenced by the people, places, and events that surround them.

Guide: underscores the importance of parenting strategies that engage a child in appropriate and desired behaviors; establish and maintain reasonable limits; provide developmentally appropriate opportunities for learning; convey fundamental values; and, teach problem-solving skills.

Nurture: emphasizes the importance of teaching appropriate expressions of affection and compassion; fostering children’s self-respect and hope; teaching kindness; providing for the nutrition, shelter, clothing, health, and safety needs of children; and, helping children feel connected to their family histories and cultural heritages.

Motivate: underscores the importance of stimulating children’s curiosity, imagination, and search for knowledge; teaching children about themselves, others, and the world around them; creating beneficial learning conditions, and, helping children to process and manage information.

Advocate: highlights the value to be derived for parents and children by finding and connecting with community-based programs, institutions, and professionals; by representing their children’s needs so important linkages with community service providers can be forged; and, by speaking up and taking action when policies and procedures impede their children’s growth or interfere with their family functions.

The Process Dimension

The Process dimension of NEPEF focuses on the professional skills and abilities that parenting educators need in order to determine needs of parents. This includes assessing the type of parenting information that parents need and want, the delivery mode best suited for the parents, and the optimal delivery time so the information can be readily used by the parents.

These unique skills, referred to as process skills, include – the capacity to take stock of one’s own professional competence; a well-rounded knowledge of various theories of child, family, and adult development; competency in assessing needs, marketing programs, and evaluating their effectiveness and impact; familiarity with and an appreciation for the diversity of family structures and values; an ability to utilize a variety of teaching and learning strategies; and, expanding one’s understanding of the field by engaging in professional networks and organizations.

The Process side, like the Content side of NEPEF is comprised of six domains – Grow, Frame, Develop, Embrace, Educate, and Build – and the priority practices have been briefly outlined as follow:

growGrow refers to personal growth as a professional; knowing yourself and understanding how this affects the way you relate to others;

frameFrame refers to knowing theoretical frameworks that guide practice in the field of parenting education;

developDevelop: refers to planning and marketing programs to educate parents, and developing evaluation processed that are part of a total educational effort;

embraceEmbrace: refers to recognizing and responding to differences in ethnicity, family type, and belief systems among populations being served;

educateEducate: refers to being an effective teacher; knowing how to use various delivery methods, helping parents learn, and challenging them to higher parenting goals;

buildBuild: refers to reaching out to build professional networks; being a community advocate; and connecting with organizations to expand the field of parenting education.

A full discussion of each of these categories is presented within this document. A handout that can be used to explain the document is also available.

Referenced Web Sites

The National Extension Parenting Education Model (NEPEM)

The Review of Literature for National Satellite Teleconference on Parenting Education

Framework for planning and evaluating parenting education programs

Research project exploring the way in which parents like to learn about parenting

Karen DeBord
North Carolina State University (formerly)
Don Bower
University of Georgia
H. Wallace Goddard
University of Arkansas
Jacqueline Kirby
Ohio State
Anna Mae Kobbe
USDA/CSREES (formerly)
Judith A. Myers-Walls
Purdue University
Maureen Mulroy
University of Connecticut
Rachel A.Ozretich
Oregon State University (formerly)

Copyrighted. 2002