November 10-18 is National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. The CCEI November Newsletter focuses on ways that caregivers can meet children’s basic needs and support families as they work to do the same. In many cases, this work will occur within the safety of the child’s consistent and comfortable home. However, consider that in some cases, families may experience economic hardship, homelessness, or other more severe situation that prevents them from meeting their child’s most basic needs.
In order to support children and families, early childhood professionals need to be aware of family circumstances. However these situations are often shrouded in shame or embarrassment. Families may not be willing to talk openly about their living arrangements or financial hardships.
In order to create relationships with families in which they feel comfortable sharing information with us, we have to work to eliminate some of those feelings of shame or embarrassment. This can be accomplished through the proactive creation of partnership between families and members of the program staff.
By proactive, we mean that communication about these sensitive topics is conducted prior to the need for the conversations.
- Program staff should incorporate collaborative language into their conversations with families. It might sound something like this, “When you enroll your child here, we become partners in preparing your child for success in all areas of life. We will often seek important information from you, and in turn we will keep you informed of our observations. We will share strategies with you as part of this shared responsibility, and hope that you will keep us informed of any changes in your family’s situation that might impact your child’s success.”
- When a family enrolls, regardless of their current economic standing in the community, they should be informed of the community resources that the program makes available to families. It might sound something like this, “We are committed to the success of each family and child. We want you to know now that if you are ever in need of community resource, for any reason, we are here to help you. We will maintain your privacy in these situations because your trust in us is vital to our partnership.”
- As children move through the program, regular communication is provided in ways the meet the families unique needs and preferences. Some families may prefer written communication while others may prefer to have conversations. These interactions should always include an invitation to the family to share their observations. It might sound something like this, “We have been introducing a number of self-calming strategies to the children this month. Here is one example… If you have an opportunity to try this strategy at home, we would love to hear about how it worked out for you.”
- Throughout the year, staff members share relevant information in nonthreatening ways. This might include sharing resources and strategies through written or verbal communication. It might sound something like this, “I went to a training last week and walked away with so much to think about. I am excited to share a few highlights from the training with you. I am eager to hear your thoughts about the topic. Please let me know if you have any questions.”
- Displays, decorations, celebrations, and gatherings reiterate the partnership that you are attempting to create. Bulletin boards, newsletters, the program website, etc. should all highlight the sense of partnership and community you hope to establish.
Though these efforts, families will receive the message that this partnership exists. If a need for additional resources arises, families will already view your program as a trusted ally.
Tell us how you have built trusting partnerships with families on Facebook here.