Parents Forever is an educational program for families experiencing:
Change in custody
What is Parents Forever?
After completing a Parents Forever course, parents will be able to:
Describe the family transition journey and how each family member will be affected.
Recognize the role of self-care, parent-child relationships, and coparenting in child well-being.
Identify internal and external resources and strategize how to leverage these resources to promote resilience for all involved.
Parents will receive a certificate of completion after completing the Parents Forever course. This certificate is what is needed to show a judge, court personnel, or attorney if the course was court-ordered.
There are a lot of options for parents regarding court-mandated parent education, also called “divorce education” or “coparenting education.” The Parents Forever program is different from the competition for several reasons.
Parents Forever is an educational program for families experiencing divorce, separation, or a change in custody. You will receive a certificate of completion after completing your course. This certificate is what you need to show your judge, court personnel, or attorney if the course was court-ordered.
What will you learn?
After completing a Parents Forever course, you will be able to:
- Describe the family transition journey and how each family member will be affected.
- Recognize the role of self-care, parent-child relationships, and co-parenting in child well-being.
- Identify internal and external resources and strategize how to leverage these resources to promote resilience for all involved.
The Extension Department of Family Health and Wellbeing developed Parents Forever as a research-informed program. Most programs taught to parents experiencing divorce or separation focus almost exclusively on minimizing the impact of the family transition on the children. As a result, these primarily address children’s needs and how parents can better meet those needs. Programs might also address issues like anger and conflict, but always from the angle of how these issues affect children.
While it’s essential to help children cope with the effects of divorce or separation, parents need help facing challenges at this difficult time, too, and this is where Parents Forever stands apart from the competition: It focuses on the whole family — children and parents.
The Parents Forever program focuses on three types of family relationships:
- Parents’ relationship with themselves, i.e., self-care.
- Parents’ relationship with their children.
- Parents’ coparenting relationship with each other.
Because of its focus on both parents and children, we in Extension believe that Parents Forever will benefit the entire family. Here are some other aspects of Parents Forever that make it the right choice for families.
Parents Forever is supported by the University of Minnesota. The Parents Forever curriculum was developed and continues to be supported and managed by staff at University of Minnesota Extension. Extension is charged with bringing the research and knowledge of the University to the citizens of Minnesota and beyond. Extension is not in this to make money, but rather to have a positive impact on individuals and families.
Parents Forever is informed by research. The Parents Forever curriculum is based on research about the impact of divorce and separation on families and how to not only survive, but thrive, after this family transition. With the most recent version of the curriculum, we have continued to further define and strengthen the research base for the program.
Parents Forever is connected with the court system. Since the early days of the program, we have worked closely with the Minnesota Supreme Court, to make Parents Forever what it is today. We view the Minnesota Supreme Court as our biggest supporter and partner in this important work. Likewise, facilitators and coordinator who run in-person programs often forge close relationships with their own county court and/or district court. We pledge to take the necessary steps to ensure that all Parents Forever courses, and the facilitators who teach those courses, meet and exceed the basic standards set by Minnesota state laws.
Parents Forever is based on “real life” parent and facilitator experience. We have a rich history in delivering Parents Forever in Minnesota and beyond. We have learned a lot in our 20+ years of teaching parents and working with professionals who facilitate and manage programs. We have incorporated that knowledge and experience into the latest version of the curriculum.
Parents Forever is continually improved. Extension is committed to continually updating and improving the Parents Forever curriculum to reflect new research, as well as feedback from participants and facilitators. A big part of our feedback and improvement loop is the collection of evaluation forms from course participants.
For family professionals
Sign up for a Parents Forever facilitator training. This means you will have permission and support to teach the program in your community.
It’s no secret that divorce and separation can be an extremely stressful time for everyone in a family. In the early 1990s University of Minnesota Extension staff and partners began exploring the needs of families experiencing divorce. Could education help these families lessen the impacts of the divorce or separation?
The team noted that parents would benefit from information and strategies to help improve their:
Coparenting relationship (relationship with their children’s other parent)
The team developed a curriculum, Parents Forever: Education for Families in Transition. Testing started testing in 1994. This curriculum served, in part, as the foundation of the Minnesota legislature and policy on mandatory curriculum topics for parent education.
The original curriculum was composed of a facilitator guide, several parent handbooks, and other resources (slide sets, video, etc.). It launched to the public in 1999.
In the following years, Extension staff trained organizations to use the Parents Forever curriculum. At one point, up to 67 counties in Minnesota had established Parents Forever programs.
Parents Forever™ in-person programs started to see a drop in enrollment in the late 2000s. Given more and more parents had access to computers and the internet, they were looking for online options to meet the court mandate.
University of Minnesota Extension was approached by the Minnesota Supreme Court in 2011 about this issue. We partnered together to create and launch the Parents Forever Online Course for Parents in 2012. This was the first parent education online course approved by the Minnesota Supreme Court.
Later, we partnered with North Dakota State University Extension Service to adapt the online course specifically for North Dakota parents. The Parents Forever Online Course for North Dakota Parents meets the recommendations being asked by North Dakota courts. (Note, this version does not meet the standards for those going through the Minnesota court system.)
While content updates were made throughout in the years, the team made more extensive revisions in 2014. The Parents Forever curriculum and all related resource were revamped.
Parents Forever is now organized into five main sessions:
Parents Forever course introduction
Taking care of yourself
Taking care of your children
Being successful with coparenting
Parents Forever course conclusion
These five sessions comprise a continuum. They are intended to be taught in order. Get more information about the current Parents Forever curriculum.
Given the extent of the changes, facilitators and coordinators who had used the curriculum in the past were asked to be retrained. This new training is required of anyone wanting access to the new curriculum. Get more information about the Parents Forever facilitator training and see our FAQ's for professionals.
A theory of change is a type of logic model that clarifies why and how a program like Parents Forever results in improved outcomes.
Parents Forever seeks to improve resiliency by:
- Reducing individual and family-level risk factors.
- Increasing individual and family-level protective factors.
Parents Forever affects change through three primary channels:
- Parental well-being.
- Parent-child relationships.
- Coparenting relationships.
Find out more about how these three channels are impacted and how they affect child and family well-being.
When we say that Parents Forever is a research-based curriculum, what do we mean? We mean that it is:
Informed by research
Continuously updated to reflect emerging research
Rigorously evaluated and studied to:
Document program impact
Explore the following resources to learn about research in support of and about the curriculum, and the impact of Parents Forever impact on Minnesota.
Reviewed in 2022