Family Engagement - What is it and Why is it Important?


(Arti Freeman) #1

Strong, stable, and supportive families are vital to the well-being of children!

The evidence behind family engagement in improving outcomes for children and youth is strong. Family engagement improves educational and social outcomes as well as strengthens relationships between the child and their parents / caregivers and siblings. These outcomes have been proven consistent across different cultures.

Families and Schools Together, an evidence based program that strengthens parent engagement and improves relationships at home has seen significant outcomes in the lives of children across 20 countries.

The Child and Family Centre describes Family Engagement as “an active partnership between families and service providers”. It is a family centered approach where families are equal partners and programs and services designed with the family, and their goals, at the center. They outline three principles of a family-centered approach:

  • Recognition that families are experts in the needs of their loved ones.
  • Practices that promote equal partnerships among family members, service providers and the client.
  • Supports the family’s role in decision making and contributions to ongoing care and planning for the client.

The American Institute of Research has been working on growing the field of family engagement and has explored engagement of families at three levels: Individual, Systemic, and at the policy level as a mechanism to connect families and children to the services they need. In this short video they discuss the different areas of family engagement - school, home, after school program – as well as how family engagement strengthens families and communities, as well as improve academic and health outcomes of children.

Childcare Aware America has a list on their website of activities you can do to engage families. Some of these include:

· Encouraging parents to share information about special family events

· Provide an interpreter, if needed

· Have them assist with program activities and be involved in delivering lessons

· Plan special occasions that include families

· Share their knowledge and skill as advisory members

· Have them represent the organization publicly

Check out this short clip that discusses the importance of building strong, trusting relationships with families. The clip also showcases different ways parents can get involved such as including parents as volunteers, providing a parent newsletter, involving parents in child’s learning by providing material and suggestions for at home activities and planning family events.

How are you applying / might you apply the principles and activities discussed in the video for Middle Year’s children in your settings (school, organization, after school programming)?