Formal Family Engagement Programs

The December 2020 CCEI Newsletter focuses on family engagement strategies.  In it, we explore the benefits of family engagement initiatives as well as different types of engagement programs can introduce. The newsletter also provides recommendations for planning and implementing these important initiatives.

If your program is seeking a formal family engagement program, there are plenty on the market.  These programs are sometimes referred to as parenting interventions.  Think of these tools as a curriculum that you would use with the parents of your program to enhance parenting skills and to build stronger relationships with their children. Each program has unique features and costs associated with it so deciding on the type of program that would work best for you will take careful consideration.

The National Center on Parent, Family, and Community Engagement has created a helpful resource that provides details on many of the family engagement programs that are available today in the Compendium of Parenting Interventions.

The document lays out the details of a variety of programs that may be appropriate for the families enrolled in your program. The compendium describes each program along with the types of families best served by the program. You can also find information about outcomes and objectives, the length of the implementation of the program, the languages in which the program has been published, and minimum workforce qualifications for staff who will be using the tool.  You can also find information about the costs as well as the type of training required and the cost to receive that training.

The Compendium is a very helpful tool for any program that is seeking to improve family engagement, especially if you looking for a program that would work for a specific target audience.

If you are interested in exploring the types of programs that are available but don’t want to get caught up in all of the details, you can find an easy-to-read At-a-Glance Table on pages 16-19 of the Compendium.

December 2020 Newsletter – Boosting Family Engagement: Director’s Corner: Creating and Implementing a Family Engagement Plan

As with most initiatives in early childhood education, the leadership team sets the tone for the eventual success or failure of the initiative. Leaders are responsible for establishing the vision, creating excitement and buy-in, communicating about the initiative to multiple audiences, and managing tasks and expectations. That is a tall order!

Before rolling out a new family engagement tool, members of leadership should spend time designing a comprehensive implementation plan.  The Administration for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that programs use a 4-phase approach to implementing new family involvement strategies:

  • Phase 1 – Exploration: In this phase, leaders determine the needs of the community, identify staff readiness, and work to determine what resources and personnel will be required to achieve success.
  • Phase 2 – Installation: In the phase, leaders act to lay the foundation of the plan to ensure successful implementation of the plan by training staff, connecting with community resources, developing policies and procedures, and determining how the success of the initiative will be measured.
  • Phase 3 – Initial Implementation: In this phase, the targeted measures are introduced in alignment with the decisions that were made during the first two stages. Data is gathered on the implementation and adjustments are made to improve the outcome, including additional training and coaching as needed.
  • Phase 4 – Full Implementation: In the final stage, the engagement strategy is worked into the fabric of the program, including training for new employees who join the team. Data on the effectiveness of the strategy is collected and adjustments are made to support employees and families.

More detailed information about this organizational plan can be found in Implementing Parenting Interventions in Early Care and Education Settings: A Guidebook for Implementation, which includes the very helpful Appendix C: Checklists of Implementation Milestones, by Implementation Stage.

For more information about formal family engagement programs, check out the CCEI Blog for December 2020.

For the main article Boosting Family Engagement, CLICK HERE

For the article Types of Family Involvement, CLICK HERE

For the article Benefits of Increased Family Engagement, CLICK HERE

For the article Grassroots Family Engagement Strategies, CLICK HERE

December 2020 Newsletter – Boosting Family Engagement: Grassroots Family Engagement Strategies

Regardless of the goal of your family engagement initiative, communication is going to be at the foundation of your success. From the very first conversation with a parent, whether over the phone or as part of a drop- in or virtual tour, stress to families the program’s dedication to open communication and partnership. Everyone on the staff who interacts with families should work to establish open lines of communication, whether it be about the kinds of foods the child enjoys or how well they are doing during math activities. Open and honest communication builds trust, and families will engage with program staff that they trust.

Whether you are communicating in person, in writing, on the phone, via Zoom sessions, or through social media be sure to invite families to share their perspectives and feelings.  Acknowledge the importance of these unique views and look for commonalities that will help strengthen the relationship. Engage with families in a way that is respectful of their cultural backgrounds. Be mindful of conversations that should take place in private and be sure to respect families’ decisions about how to use the information you provide.

Programs with strong parent engagement work with families to build skills; both for parents and children.  Be sure to recognize and build on the strengths that you observe. Act as a role model for parents to notice their child’s amazing capabilities and build skills in a strengths-based manner. Structure your conversations with families about their skills in the same way.

You may find it necessary to share information with the families enrolled in your program about everything from managing biting to ways to practice letter recognition on the weekends. This information should be shared in a positive and culturally sensitive manner that helps families digest the information and put it into practice in their daily lives. Some programs host parent education events (held virtually at this time), so that parents can practice skills and network with other parents.

Speaking of networking, anything you can do to position your program as a valuable source of community information for families will increase engagement. When it is safe to do so, invite speakers to share information with families on a variety of topics.  Consider hosting these events virtually and making them available for for families to download at their convenience. Create a resource binder or designate a corner of the lobby where parents can go to find information about early intervention services, transition to kindergarten strategies, and even agencies that provide financial support during challenging times.  Due to COVID-19 restrictions, this information could be published on your program website under a community resources tab. Parents will appreciate the research you have done to gather the information they may need during a time when they cannot manage to conduct that research themselves.

For the article main article Boosting Family Engagement, CLICK HERE

For the article Types of Family Involvement, CLICK HERE

For the article Benefits of Increased Family Engagement, CLICK HERE

For the article Director’s Corner:  Creating and Implementing a Family Engagement Plan, CLICK HERE

December 2020 Newsletter – Boosting Family Engagement: Benefits of Increased Family Engagement

Increased family engagement has a positive impact on everyone involved in the program.  Because strong family engagement is one of the indicators of high-quality, it is well worth it to pursue these important initiatives.

On the program side, leaders and teachers gain experience organizing and managing family engagement initiatives. Strong communication and relationships with families will help teachers respond to children’s individual needs, set goals, and make effective curriculum plans. All of these benefits ultimately support the success of the children enrolled in the program.

As part of the preparation to support families, program staff will also benefit from making connections with community agencies and experts who will act as partners in the family engagement process. As family engagement strengthens, it is likely that programs will also see a financial benefit in the form of increased enrollment, less family turnover, and longer length-of-stay for families and teachers. Word-of-mouth marketing will spread about the excellence of the program and fewer hours will be spent focused on building enrollment, recruiting, and training new staff members.  This means there will be even more time to focus on additional program-quality initiatives.

For families, the benefits are even more important. Having a trusted partner in the often challenging job of raising a child can be a huge relief for some families.  Not every parent is well-versed in child development and what to expect for children at different stages of development. By working with families to identify children’s strengths and set goals to work toward, program staff can act as a valuable resource for families. Families can learn the skills required to help their child succeed in school and establish healthy lifestyle habits from the information shared as part of family engagement efforts.

Children reap the most important rewards when programs and families are strongly engaged. Their environments become more physically and emotionally safe. They build stronger and more positive relationships with the adults in their lives, who are all working toward the same goals. This will lead to improved school-readiness, confidence, behavioral outcomes, and overall success in life.

For the main article Boosting Family Engagement, CLICK HERE

For the article Types of Family Involvement, CLICK HERE

For the article Grassroots Family Engagement Strategies, CLICK HERE

For the article Director’s Corner:  Creating and Implementing a Family Engagement Plan, CLICK HERE

December 2020 Newsletter – Boosting Family Engagement: Types of Family Engagement

The chart below shows six types of family engagement strategies that build upon one another.  The most basic strategy is communication, which you can see is at the bottom of the chart.  Each type of engagement builds on the relationships established in the levels below. The higher levels of family engagement require a bit more from both caregivers and family members, but the rewards are that much sweeter.

Types of Family Engagement

Decision-making The most involved type of family engagement involves shared decision making.  In this scenario, family members participate on a family committee and work with members of leadership to set and meet goals for the program.
Volunteering Providing opportunities for family members to spend time engaged with teachers and children is another valuable way to boost engagement. The key is to provide a variety of opportunities for family members to volunteer their time. Some may want to come to the facility and build a stage on the playground. Others may volunteer to edit your monthly newsletter and other family members may want to come in to read to the children in the afternoons. Volunteering may be challenging right now, but be sure to make opportunities available when it is safe to do so.
Community Networking Creating the opportunity for families to network with other parents through your child care program is part of this type of engagement. Organizing chances for families to engage with experts from different fields within your community is also part of community networking.
Educational Support Many parents are interested in how they can help their child become a better learner. Helping parents understand how children learn and providing activities that they can work on with their children that promote academic skills is part of this type of family engagement.
Parent Support At this level, caregivers and programs begin to work in partnership with families to ensure that children are developing to their highest potential. This includes sharing information about child development, especially social and emotional development. Programs should create a system to support families in the work of raising happy, healthy young children.
Communication At the lowest level of family engagement, is the reliable and respectful sharing of information. Even though this is the least intense form of family engagement, it is often the place where breakdowns occur. Communication can be challenging, but without this foundation, there is little hope for the other types of engagement to succeed.

For the main article Boosting Family Engagement, CLICK HERE

For the article Benefits of Increased Family Engagement, CLICK HERE

For the article Grassroots Family Engagement Strategies, CLICK HERE

For the article Director’s Corner:  Creating and Implementing a Family Engagement Plan, CLICK HERE

December 2020 Newsletter – Boosting Family Engagement

Family engagement is one of the most important indicators of quality in early learning environments. It incorporates so much more than participation in harvest carnivals, especially during this pandemic, when gathering in large groups is limited. Families are our partners in the nurturing and education of their children. We cannot do our jobs in a vacuum; we need the knowledge that families have about their children, their culture, and their goals for their children’s futures.

This month, we want to take a look at some of the elements of strong family engagement and how it can benefit everyone involved in your program. In this newsletter and accompanying blog post, we will focus on strategies ranging from simply enhancing communication with families to how to implement a formal family engagement intervention.

While some of the suggestions in this newsletter won’t be possible during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to consider how you might include in-person forms of family involvement once it is safe to do so.  Until then, programs will need to focus on safely strengthening relationships and engaging families using online or virtual tools.

For the article Types of Family Involvement, CLICK HERE

For the article Benefits of Increased Family Engagement, CLICK HERE

For the article Grassroots Family Engagement Strategies, CLICK HERE

For the article Director’s Corner:  Creating and Implementing a Family Engagement Plan, CLICK HERE