Family engagement critical for children’s success
Posted on 08.12.2016, Friday

“Implementing effective family engagement practices to promote positive child outcomes will require bold leadership and dedication from all institutions where children learn,” write the Secretaries of the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in a joint letter sharing their new family engagement policy statement.

The policy statement outlines family engagement recommendations for birth-8 early childhood systems and programs. It emphasizes that family engagement is not optional for children’s healthy intellectual, physical, and social-emotional development and academic success. As the letter states:

“Family engagement in early learning programs and elementary school supports families as they teach, nurture, and advocate for their children. In turn, family engagement supports and improves the early learning programs in which children are cared for and taught. When families and educators/providers work together and support each other in their respective roles, children do better.”

To implement family engagement practices across birth-through-eight systems, the statement recommends actions at the state and local levels. Highlights of steps states can take include:

  • Plan for and prioritize family engagement, including developing statewide early childhood and early elementary school policies on family engagement.
  • Communicate consistent messages that support strong family engagement, including modeling cultural responsiveness in all state outreach to families.
  • Invest and allocate, including establishing or enhancing statewide technical assistance on family engagement in early childhood systems and programs; and establishing community parenting and family engagement hubs that bring educators and families together to access information and engage in shared learning.
  • Establish policies, procedures, and practices that support family engagement, beginning with reviewing and prioritizing policies that are most effective in supporting family engagement. The statement offers several examples of policies to consider, including using federal funds from the Every Student Succeeds Act to support the implementation of more robust, research-based parent and family engagement practices in school districts.

At the local-level, recommendations cover the following topics:

  • Providing Access to Families and Invite Them to Participate in Learning Activities
  • Creating Family Friendly Environment
  • Supporting Family Connections
  • Developing Family and Professional Relationships Linked to Learning, Development, and Wellness
  • Providing Two-Way Communication
  • Supporting Families as Decision Makers
  • Establishing Supportive Transitions to New Learning Settings
  • Providing Family Supports
  • Providing Voluntary Home Visits
  • Establishing Formal Relationships with Community Partners
  • Making Data about Children’s Progress Accessible and Understandable to Parents
  • Establishing workforce capacity building that supports family engagement

Click here to read the Policy Statement on Family Engagement from the Early Years to the Early Grades.

Many of our programs are built around the importance of family engagement, from Smart Start-funded programs, to Early Head Start, to the Transition to Kindergarten Initiative. Click here to learn more about how we’re supporting families with young children here in Durham!