For many years, Alysha Price and her ex raised their now 17-year-old son with an admirable amount of cooperation and a lack of animosity. “A lot of people would say, how did you do that?” says Price. She also often acted as an unofficial co-parenting coach, while observing what she saw as a lack of available services aimed at providing such help.
What was needed, she realized, were services that focused on helping children experience a stable family life, even when their parents lived apart, by training divorced or never-married couples to raise their kids in a collaborative, amicable way. “There was a missing link—helping people figure out how to co-parent across households, as a team,” says Price, who has had a long career in nonprofit work.
Last year, she launched a company to address that gap. Called The Price Dynamic, the Minneapolis enterprise trains parents in how to be a good co-parent, as well as teaching teachers and social service agencies how to address these issues. The larger goal, according to Price, is creating co-parenting practices that impact a child’s academic, social and emotional development—and building processes that can be replicated by lots of other organizations.
Before starting her business, Price published It’s Not Complicated: A Self Help Guide for Mothers Navigating the Obstacles of Co-Parenting (May 2019), which explains her basic strategies.
“She has a unique approach to co-parenting we’d never heard from anyone before— an unusual approach to a problem that everyone can recognize affects kids and their ability to not only excel academically, but also in life,” says Connie Rutledge, CEO of FINNOVATION Lab, an organization in Minneapolis that runs a nine-month startup fellowship for social enterprises, among other programs. Price joined the accelerator in September.
Of course, not long after, Covid hit, forcing Price to make some important changes to her still-fledgling venture. Initially, “I was struggling to connect with my target market,” she says. “People don’t usually sign up and say, help me co-parent.” With that in mind, she started reaching out to elementary schools in areas with primarily single-parent households and began coaching teachers and others about how best to engage with such families.
But with Covid, the need for—and interest in—such training increased, as teachers working remotely struggled to engage students and their parents. “There was a new interest in learning what I was trying to help people do,” says Price.
Then Price observed that Covid lockdowns were affecting the ability for court-ordered family visitations to take place. Quite simply, non-custodial parents had a hard time visiting their children. Plus, courts were closed, as were most organizations that usually provided help. So, Price decided to speed up plans to open her own office, with space to hold court-ordered supervised visitation sessions for children and their non-custodial parent. “Now was the time to provide support no one was offering,” she says.
The upshot: In July she opened up an office with three spaces for holding supervised, two-hour court-ordered parental visits. Everyone wears masks and just one family visit at a time is allowed. The parent receives about 15 minutes of coaching before the visit begins.
So far, Price has had about 20 court-ordered referrals. Families pay for the visits, which cost $90 for two hours and is cheaper than the $130 or so charged by other organizations, according to Price. She’s also looking for donors who can sponsor families.
Training Employment Counselors
Before starting the accelerator, Price had done one-on-one coaching with parents. She still does some, though she doesn’t have time for a lot. But her emphasis is on something else: training others working in social services in the techniques she’s developed, the better to boost the overall impact. “I don’t want this to be housed just within The Price Dynamic,” she says. “I want this to grow beyond my small business.”
To that end, she stepped up a focus on workforce development organizations providing employment counseling. According to Price, as she did more research, she discovered not only that 89% of the population targeted by one particular workforce development center were single parents, but that the problems faced by such families weren’t being addressed. “You wonder why, six months after coming in, their clients required more resources,” she says. “These organizations needed to address this issue.” Now she’s training the center’s staff in how to handle co-parenting problems and help stabilize families.
Price had her son with a childhood friend turned high school and college sweetheart. When her child was around seven, she and his father split up. But according to Price, they were able to develop a workable arrangement for jointly taking care of their son. While “there were times when it wasn’t the easiest thing for us to do,” she says, she learned that, above all, it was essential for her son to see that his parents could interact with each other with respect and provide a model for constructive communication.