You and your program are in a unique position to promote children’s well-being – today and in the future – by engaging their parents and families. Parents and family members are the “forever” people in a child’s life. They will shape their child’s sense of self, others, and the world over the years and across the miles.
As research suggests, when you create positive and trusting relationships with parents and family members, they are more likely to become engaged in their young child’s development and learning.1 In Head Start/Early Head Start, these relationships focus on goals that families develop with the support of program leadership, staff, and engaged community partners. These goal-directed relationships are part of the two- generational approach of working with children and adult family members that distinguishes Head Start/Early Head Start from other early childhood initiatives. They are most likely to take root within programs that take intentional steps to promote parent and family engagement.
Working hand-in-hand with the Office of Head Start, we have created a definition of parent, family, and community engagement as follows:
In Head Start and Early Head Start programs, parent, family, and community engagement means building relationships with families that support family well-being, strong parent-child relationships and ongoing learning and development of parents and children alike. It refers to the beliefs, attitudes, behaviors, and activities of families that support their children’s positive development from early childhood through young adulthood. Family engagement happens in the home, early childhood program, school, and community, and is a shared responsibility with all those who support children’s learning.
With this definition to guide us, we worked with the Office of Head Start to develop the Head Start Parent, Family, and Community Engagement Framework: Promoting Family Engagement and School Readiness from Prenatal to Age 8 [PDF, 1.06MB]. Known in short-hand as the “PFCE Framework,” this research-based tool shows that when parent and family engagement activities are systemic and integrated across program foundations and program impact areas, family engagement outcomes are achieved, resulting in children who are healthy and ready for school.
We then collaborated with the Office of Head Start to develop two easy-to-use, practical resources. The first of these has been released to the field and you may already have seen or be using it: Bringing the Parent, Family, and Community Engagement Framework to Your Program: Beginning a Self-Assessment [PDF, 8.82MB]. This series of thought-provoking questions was developed to help you identify what you are doing well, celebrate your work, and consider what you might do differently. You will start thinking about who you need to partner with and in what ways, and the kinds of information you will want to gather to assess your practices and measure progress.
We are excited and proud to bring you a second new resource: Using the Head Start Parent, Family, and Community Engagement Framework in Your Program: Markers of Progress [PDF, 5.39MB].
While the Digital Markers of Progress tool is meant to mirror the Markers of Progress print guide, there are some key differences, such as the use of the term PFCE Assessment instead of Self-Assessment.
This resource was created to help you recognize your program’s accomplishments in engaging parents, families, and the community. It also offers you the opportunity to identify aspects of your work in this area that can be strengthened and offers ideas for new and innovative ways to enhance your efforts. The information you gather from your observations, conversations, and reflections is important data that can be incorporated into your decision-making about your whole program. In fact, this guide and the subsequent information you collect, could be utilized to inform the required annual program Self-Assessment. In the area of parent, family, and community engagement – as in all program areas – knowing where you are on the road to change and where you want to go will help you reach your goals.
This guide can help you make parent, family, and community engagement live and breathe in every part of your program. It incorporates the input and feedback of hundreds of program directors and staff, as well as training and technical assistance specialists, regional office staff, and OHS leadership. But, it is still a work in progress.
Please tell us how we can improve this guide to be a more useful resource for self-assessment of your work. We encourage you to share examples of your successes and challenges in engaging parents, families, and your community. Stories, photos, quotes, and videos are all welcomed. (Please send them to us at NCPFCE@childrens.harvard.edu. We look forward to hearing and learning from you. We appreciate the vital work you do each day to create positive and enduring change for children and families.
Our hope is that as you begin to look at all you have accomplished in the area of parent, family, and community engagement, you will see rich potential in building even stronger collaborations with families and community partners. We hope you will feel energized as you, your staff, your families, and community partners come together to take next steps in promoting the well-being of children and families through parent, family, and community engagement practices.
With deep appreciation for everything you do every day for all of our children, their families, and their communities from all of us at:
Bryk, A.S. & Schneider, B. (2003). Trust in schools: a core resource for school reform. Educational Leadership, 60(6). Lopez, M.E., Dorros, S., & Weiss, H. (1999). Family-centered child care. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Family Research Project. ↩