The most important leadership role you may ever have in your life doesn’t come with a paycheck attached. I believe, if you choose to parent a child, they quickly become your most important “job”. I have had the blessing of working with and experiencing, quite possibly, every single type of family dynamic. That is how old I am! I began my earliest career years working with DCFS investigation and then in group homes where the children were too dangerous for foster care. I then became a Director of Foster Care for a national adoption agency. I did this work for 12 years, and if any of you have ever had the privilege of working from home while you start and raise a family, you will understand why I began dying my hair at a very early age. I was fortunate enough to stay home and raise my boys while having a 24 hour national hotline in my home and manage caseworkers and adoption cases all over the country. It was life changing work and I know I was incredibly fortunate to be in that role, while raising 2 little boys. I love that Parents are given this option even more today. It can really be the best of both worlds for some families. Even though I loved my job, and the thrill in helping women through a heroic decision of placing their child in an adoptive home and another family be created, my eyes were always focused on my parenting. In the busy life of working and raising children, I sought out many mentors along the way. I just wasn’t aware I was doing it! I would look for those women who were parenting well, and how I respected, and made them my new friend. I thought it was part of staying sane and I was right!
When my children entered school, I began my career as the Coordinator for the Parents as Teacher’s program through DuPage County’s Regional Office of Education. In this role I taught to the high school students who were pregnant and or parenting and did home visits, as well as oversee the home visiting program in 6 other school districts. We strictly worked with the most at risk and vulnerable families in these districts and we served them for up to 3 years with home visits. Here is the part that comes in where I think, in those 13 years, I had seen it all. We were, as educators, so incredibly critical in helping to lead, teach, protect and lift these children. I learned firsthand how isolated families are from help and resources. We became their life line when virtually none existed. I learned how as a leader of your family, it is critical to have relationships that are healthy, knowledge of child development, understanding the roles of temperament in your parent/child relationship and discipline to name a few. These things do not take money, privilege, or power to obtain. They take education and a compassionate knowledgeable mentor. I have always worked within programs using strength based models, and this has altered my entire life. It has 100% effected how I parent and how I engage with everyone. When you work with families that are struggling with basic necessities and trauma, you begin by working on their strengths and build from there. It works! It also works when you are dealing with your staff and with your teenager. When your eyes are focused on what is going well, it shifts the nature of the relationship and typically the outcome.
Currently, I am incredibly fortunate to be the Executive Director of Project HELP. We are a Parent Mentor organization serving families with children birth to 12 with home visitation and Parent Education programs throughout DuPage and parts of Aurora. I feel like I have come home. At Project HELP we serve all families that want to become stronger. As we all know now, thanks to Oprah and Sheryl Sandberg from her block buster “Lean In” (run and read it if you haven’t yet) we all need Mentor’s to achieve success! We use a strength based curriculum and home visiting model. We are in a position as an organization to educate parents on child development, discipline, goal setting, resource allocation and so much more! I pinch myself daily when I see what the Mentors and Counselor are able to accomplish with our families and the wide range of issues that we are presented with. Now that I am a semi-empty nester (boys in college), I have my entire focus on building leadership among families, and communities. I know, firsthand the marathon leadership role titled “Mom”. It is one that needs some serious support. I love that at Project HELP we can be exactly that, for families. So, I bow to all of you taking on leadership roles in your chosen career, and at home. Search out mentors in all areas you desire success and some sanity, is my recommendation to you. Enjoy!
Bio: Peggy McGuire has over 26 years of experience working with families and children. She is the mother of two son’s age 22 and 20. You can contact Project HELP and Peggy directly by going to projecthelpdupage.org or firstname.lastname@example.org