Why Support Attachment Parenting International (API)?
API delivers unique support and information to parents, caregivers and professionals based on research and healthy human relations. API uniquely endeavors to envelop all parents and caregivers with new, practical information and support to help them attain and retain early, healthy secure attachments though connected relationships with children in any neighborhood, setting or socioeconomic level. Our work supports the parents in their role as experts of their children and families and is based on natural parenting instincts, attachment theory and research and a wide range of other research. This is prevention with knowledge and care.
What experience tells us and research supports
Parents and caregivers matter -- a lot. It's a universally accepted truth that one of the most important influences on a child's social, emotional and intellectual health and well-being is the type of parenting and caregiving he or she receives in childhood -- particularly early childhood when brain development is the most rapid. Neuroscience now tells us that these early relational experiences constitute the "environment" within which a child's brain architecture is formed. This early relational architecture has been shown to persist through adulthood. While we now know that our brains are plastic and change is always possible for better or worse, the earliest relationship experiences matter a great deal because change becomes more difficult over time as neural pathways become more established.
Parents and caregivers want and need knowledge, skills and confidence. Research further tells us that parents want to do the best job possible. They believe that being a parent is the most important undertaking of their lives and understand the critical a role they play in the development of their children. But parents also indicate that they often struggle with the knowledge, skills and confidence to be successful and often feel vulnerable, unsupported, isolated, and are afraid to ask for the help they want -- and need.
Prevailing parenting advice falls short. Popular parenting advice, resources and experts tend to focus on "training" and/or achieving quick behavioral fixes without an understanding of or regard for the long term implications on overall healthy human development. Many common parenting techniques are adapted from animal behavioral experiments designed to elicit or extinguish selected behaviors. Humans -- even infants -- have been shown to have higher and more complex brain functioning and capacities than most of the lab animals used in these behavioral experimentations. It seems inappropriate that these techniques would be used for raising highly social and naturally engaged human children.
Children are not reaching their full potential. Child, youth and family health trends and "epidemics" today indicate that something is awry: children from all socioeconomic levels are not reaching their full potential and parents are struggling. Both conditions have a real cost to society in reduced and lost productivity and wages, disturbance and illness and the associated healthcare, social services and judicial costs.
What distinguishes API?
Relationships are the key. What sets API apart is our focus on promoting parenting and care giving styles, rooted in attachment theory, that are characterized by the closeness and connectedness that marks secure attachments. Our goal is that all adult-child relationships might be the healthiest possible and enable the optimal development of children who are not only well-adjusted, resilient, capable and compassionate individuals, but who are able to reach their highest individual potential.
API helps parents and caregivers view child behaviors in context of the individual and development, understand them as the communication they are and respond to them from the basis of a trusting, validating relationship. API sees these mundane interactions and relationships as a critical and formative framework from which the child will learn to relate to the world.
Distinctive Content. Each program and resource is infused with key evidenced-based Principles of preparation for parenting, feeding with love and respect, responding with sensitivity, using nurturing touch, ensuring safe sleep physically and emotionally, providing consistent loving care, practicing positive discipline, and striving for balance. Those who strive to adapt and apply API's Eight Principles of Parenting are committed to promoting secure attachments with their children. They are committed to raising children who are more capable of compassion, empathy for others and the environment, having lifelong healthy relationships, self confidence, greater resilience, achieving success in school, and experiencing a sense of contentment.
Unique programs. API uniquely combines free, local and global support and informal, but facilitated, attachment research-based education to all parents. API provides free helpful information and support via 24/7 online forums, programming and publications, but our most unique organizational feature is our Support Group Leader accreditation program. Through this accreditation program, volunteer API Leaders are designated and supported to conduct free, regular parent support groups in their areas providing face-to-face support and outreach. In contrast, most free parent groups are 100% social and shared information is primarily opinion-based and/or derived from an assortment of unverified resources. Additionally, most widely offered parent education is either formal and fee-based with few offerings based in attachment theory or if parent education is based in research, it's primarily treatment oriented for distressed and/or court-mandated families with a focus on behavioral modification. API's support groups are a truly unique combination of free, para-professional facilitated, informal, research-based education and support.
Grassroots Organization. API has been a quiet grassroots parenting movement that has grown to 60 support groups around the country during the last 16 years, proving its worth and long-term impact.
How does our support help API?
With your support, API proposes to scale up by replicating our education and support program in new communities, geographically and demographically, to benefit even greater numbers of children, and generate significant focus on this important topic. Present in 32 states with support primarily from memberships and donations and a network of volunteers, API support groups will identify, orient and mentor new communities to adopt attachment Principles, making vital information and support accessible to more parents, caregivers, teachers and professionals.
API's Objectives and projects:
- Strengthen API sustainability with strategic choices and direction for the long term, maintaining focus on the API mission, Principles, and building on the strong network, staffing and work/volunteer environment.
- Engage in targeted funding strategies to rightfully fund existing, successful, core programs. Secure funding for major program expenses and continue to build programs that are self sustaining. At the same time, focus on quality and strategies to improve existing programs and activities.
- Broaden API presence and significance by establishing an increased rate of Leader accreditation and Support Group presence. Parallel to that, provide the key services to retain leaders and groups.
- Continue to grow API membership, moving to faster rates of growth. Parallel to that offer the key services to retain members.
- Make API's recognition and contribution more widely known. Expand and target its resource materials to undergird the mission of API's advocacy and clearinghouse role.
- Know more about API. Gather data, information about API and our impact.
- Engage in new key program development including:
- Attachment curriculum/parent education.
- Engage and develop more experts and resources on older children -- for both growing with an AP child and establishing attachment at years beyond birth.
- Fathers -- study the needs and best strategies for increasing father involvement in parenting support and education.
- Make a demonstrated difference -- Memphis is a proposed pilot location with one of the nation's lowest infant mortality/morbidity rates that we believe can be improved by incorporating prenatal, postpartum and ongoing parenting support.
API's mission is to educate and support all parents in raising secure, joyful, empathic children in order to strengthen families and create a more compassionate world.
Financials: http://www2.guidestar.org/organizations/62-1574168/attachment-parenting-international.aspx (also available in the 2009 API Annual Report http://www.attachmentparenting.org/pdfs/API2009Report.pdf )