Parent Group Education to ENABLE “Barrio” Parents


  • Herman Curiel University of Oklahoma School of Social Work



Empowerment, enable, war on poverty, Mexican-origin, indigenous case aide, promotora, Economic Opportunity Act, Whitney Young, Blacks, outreach, barrio


This paper describes a 1960s “War on Poverty” parent group education program that brought together three national private voluntary agencies with federal funding by the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO). Project ENABLE (Education Neighborhood Action for a Better Living Environment) sought to direct professional efforts to help/empower the poor and societal members of ethnic minority groups. Group education as a preventive modality was used to strengthen parents’ problem solving skills in their roles both as parents and as community leaders. The author describes his group leadership role together with that of the indigenous case aides who helped direct/enable the collective power of a group of poor Spanish speaking Mexican origin families living in barrios (neighborhoods) of a major metropolitan southern city. Project ENABLE embraced a strengths-based perspective characteristic of social work’s historical empowerment traditions. Despite its brief existence, Project ENABLE functioned as a demonstration program in 62 communities across the United States. Ironically, its prevention focus and demonstration nature served to undermine its ability to compete with other OEO initiatives like Head Start and job training programs. The author cites a combination of historical and logistic factors that contributed to the short life and ultimate demise of a once promising outreach program.

Author Biography

Herman Curiel, University of Oklahoma School of Social Work

Ph.D., Professor, University of Oklahoma School of Social Work