In this short video, Luis Moll describes the concept of “funds of knowledge,” the essential cultural practices and knowledge that are embedded in family routines. Although the video focuses on teachers, the information about approaching families as learners and seeking to understand families’ experiences — including work experiences, social practices, and social history — is relevant for home visitors.
As a supervisor, you emphasize the importance of family partnerships during joint home visits, supervision, training, and other staff development efforts. Home visitors should be well informed about the family partnership process, family support services, and family engagement. See Relationships with Parents in the Home Visitor’s Online Handbook).
The Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS) (45 CFR §1302.52(a)) state that programs must implement a family partnership process that includes a family partnership agreement and activities to:
- Support family well-being, including family safety, health, and economic stability
- Support child learning and development
- Provide services and supports for children with disabilities, if applicable
- Foster parental confidence and skills that promote early learning
Although the HSPPS do not require a specific written agreement, you can document this partnership in a way that reflects the needs of your families and program. You support this process during supervision and through staff training to help home visitors:
- Build relationships with families
- Assess family strengths and needs
- Incorporate family goals
- Link family needs with services and services with desired outcomes
- Establish partnerships with community service providers
- Increase their knowledge of family support services and strategies
Support home visitors in developing meaningful family partnerships during home visits by helping them take the following actions.
Build Relationships with Families
The overarching goal of developing family partnerships is for home visitors to build relationships with families in which they work closely together toward children’s optimal learning and development. As a supervisor, you may:
- Use reflective supervision to help staff empathize with families and provide an experience of unconditional caring
- Make (or change, if necessary) staff assignments based on home visitors’ ability to engage families in positive relationships
Assess Family Strengths and Needs
At times, home visitors may be so overwhelmed by families’ needs that they have difficulty identifying the resources families already have.
- Provide opportunities for home visitors to identify family strengths, and discuss how family members can use these strengths to accomplish goals.
- Emphasize the message that home visitors support families in assessing their own strengths and needs.
Incorporate Family Goals
Home visitors help parents identify goals for themselves and their children.
- During reflective supervision and training, highlight listening to the “family’s voice” and reflecting their identified goals in the family partnership agreement.
- Work with home visitors to incorporate families’ developmental goals for their children into curriculum experiences.
Link Family Needs to Services with Desired Outcomes
The family partnership agreement should connect family needs with specific services that address those needs and lead to positive outcomes.
- Help home visitors think explicitly about the type and intensity of services that would enable families to reach their goals.
- Review assessments of family progress with home visitors to determine whether services best meet families’ needs and goals and what, if any, changes are needed.
Establish Partnerships with Community Service Providers
Your program provides comprehensive services to families through strong community collaboration.
- Give home visitors an up-to-date list of community service providers.
- Establish respectful, professional relationships with service providers and, when appropriate, facilitate the development of formal, collaborative agreements.
- Encourage home visitors to develop respectful, professional relationships with the service providers with whom they regularly interact. Accompany home visitors when they visit service providers, as needed.
- Encourage community service providers to join your health services advisory committee; attend meetings when possible and invite home visitors to attend when appropriate.
Increase Home Visitors' Knowledge of Family Support Services
These services should be linked to the family partnership agreement and to family and program outcomes.
- Provide home visitors with information about family entitlements (e.g., income assistance, child care, medical assistance) and what families must do to receive such assistance (e.g., obtain work mandates).
- Encourage home visitors to recognize that parents/families are their child’s health champion. Provide information that helps home visitors promote family health literacy by encouraging families to ask questions and ask medical providers for health information they can understand.
- Provide information about family support strategies. Help home visitors develop and strengthen skills such as:
- Basic communication (e.g., active listening)
- The ability to empathize with adults
- Supporting families experiencing crises
- Recognizing signs and symptoms of mental health difficulties
- Family engagement
- Using community resources
Strengthen Family Engagement in Your Program
Home visitors work as collaborative partners with parents/families to increase their involvement and engagement in the program.
- Work with home visitors to build strengths-based attitudes and relationship-based practices that contribute to positive, goal-oriented relationships with families.
- Provide information about parents’ pivotal role in program governance and decision-making and the vehicles for governance (e.g., policy council, policy committee, parent committee) so that home visitors can share this information with families and encourage them to participate.
- Help home visitors look for opportunities to connect parents/families to the larger program; for example, inviting parents to participate in planning and leading program activities, including those that come from parents’ suggestions.
- Work with home visitors to engage fathers or father figures in children’s lives during home visits.
Family engagement refers to ongoing, goal-directed relationships between staff and families that are mutual and culturally responsive and that support what is best for children and families both individually and collectively. Staff and families share responsibility for children’s learning and development, children’s and families’ progress toward outcomes, and parent involvement in the program. Encouraging parent involvement — providing opportunities for parent participation in a variety of program activities that support child and adult development, including policy and program decision making — is a part of this larger construct of family engagement (National Center on Parent, Family, and Community Engagement 2018).
Listen as Brenda Jones Harden, associate professor at the Institute for Child Study, University of Maryland at College Park, and Kadija Johnston, director of the Infant-Parent Program/Daycare Consultants at the University of California, San Francisco, discuss working with families. They talk about the joys and challenges of the home visitor and families in this important work. They explain how the home visitor engages parents with their child and keeps them committed to participating in home visits.
Voices from the Field: Brenda Jones Harden & Kadija Johnston
Chapter 11: Engaging Families, Experience It
Brenda Jones Harden: Well, that phrase you used, "You are his world," I thought, how powerful is that, particularly for our parents that we might work with in Early Head Start who feel like they're not the world to anybody – not to their own parents, not to their spouses, maybe, certainly not to many of the professionals with whom they've worked. But what a powerful message to say to a parent, that you mean everything to this little person.
And I can just put myself in the shoes of a parent and feel like I would feel so much better about my life if my home visitor not only said that to me, because the words are important, but also acted in that way in her behavior; that she said, "I want to keep coming back to see you even if you're not nice to me. And I want to comment every time you do something wonderful for your baby, because that's how much I think of you." That – I think, what a powerful message to parents, and how much psychological energy they could get from that that would allow them to do what we need them to do for their baby.
Kadija Johnston: Yes. Yes.
Brenda: But another thing you were making me think about is how sometimes, like you said, we don't see what we want to see. So, one of the things I'd like to think about with home visitors is finding the one moment or the two moments in the context of that visit where we can see what we want to see.
And almost every parent will give you some moment that you can celebrate with them.
So focusing on their strengths, focusing on the positive, focusing on when they do something well goes a long, long way. And you can see it in how their affect changes and how you'll see them try to repeat what you just celebrated again, sometimes when they shouldn't be, like, you know, they're pushing it and the baby's moved on. But they got such gratification from us saying to them, "Oh, look at how you made your baby smile," that they want to get that gratification over and over again.
But that's a sign of movement, and we celebrate that, and we look for opportunities to be that person for that parent. And that becomes, to me, almost more important than the lesson. And that goes back to what you were saying earlier about the "how" in the lesson. The lesson should not be didactically delivered by us. It should be delivered in the context of what we see.
So, again, you use the curriculum as a foundation, particularly if we can't remember all that child development and all that brain development stuff. We've got it right there in the curriculum. But if we use it at a time when it relates to some behavior in the parent, then they're going to internalize it more instead of this sort of sitting there listening to us talk about developmental milestones.
Kadija: And I think what we're talking about can seem so simple. And I want to underscore again that it is the greatest skill to be able to draw from what a parent is already doing with – or being who they're being with their child. And I think one of the things, as I was listening to you, I was thinking about, "What does one have to do to get oneself in that space?" And I think if you're worried, if you're preoccupied as a home visitor, which can – our home visitors can have good reason to be.
Kadija: But if we can't get our worry out of the way, it's impossible to see a parent do something that's meaningful to a baby, because it rarely will measure up to our aspirations, and even what might be doing something remarkable for this family doesn't look anything like doing something remarkable in this family. That – that the idea of – that you see that a parent turns to her baby to put the blanket over them before turning back to you to talk about how difficult her job search has been. To isolate that moment when she turned to that baby, to see it and notice it, is hugely meaningful to that baby; but we've got to be able to be in a place where we're not thinking that's meaningless. And it has to be genuine.
Kadija: I think parents have – are very adept at knowing...
Brenda: At knowing.
Kadija: ...if we're being genuine or not.
Brenda: And as a home visitor, you have to know – you have to keep that in your mind at all times, because it gets hard and you feel like, "I'm not getting through and I'm trying so hard." And all of us are in this work because we care about parents and we care about children. But I often say to home visitors, you've got to do it over and over and over again, and you revisit that every time you do a visit. In every activity, in every piece of the curriculum you're going over, in every interaction you have with parents, you are constantly emphasizing how much they mean to the baby, how important they are to their baby's development, how what they're doing in the moment matters for a lifetime.
So there are certain kinds of tenets that – you're right – you've got to keep giving voice to, but you've got to show it in your response to parents. And it can't even be, you know, "I like your baby," because sometimes parents even get jealous of the time we're spending with the baby and not with them. So – and then they act out and then they don't want us to come back, and we're like, "What? We were doing so well." So you have to really be mentally vigilant about what you know is going on with the families with whom you work...
Kadija: Yes, yes.
Brenda: ...all the time. All the time. And again, that's why having an opportunity to reflect on that and supervision become so important, because when you're in the moment and you're trying to do a million things – there are, you know, five siblings in the house and there are people going in and out, and you got this little teeny space in a one-room apartment where you're trying to do your home visits, and it's just hard. It's just hard. It's hard to keep all of that in your mind.
Kadija: Yes. Yes.Close
Promoting Partnerships with Families Clip 2
Funds of Knowledge: Luis Moll Office of Head Start 50th Anniversary
I'm Luis Moll and I'm a professor at the University of Arizona. For several years, we have worked with a concept that we call "funds of knowledge" and funds of knowledge has to do with the knowledge base generated by families on the basis of their experiences, especially their work experiences, their social practices, and their social history. So part of the strategies that we use is to visit households and get to know the families where we become the learners, as opposed to the teachers in that context.
In order to document the knowledge base through, as laid out by the experiences of the families that we are working with. There are several advantages, we think, to such an approach and we are pleased that colleagues, in not only in different parts of the U.S. but in other countries, are using the concept and adapting it to their own realities. And one of the most interesting areas for development on the use of the concept, I think, is through Head Start activities or other early childhood activities and programs, where the teachers could develop the documentation of funds of knowledge, not only with the families but with the kids and also the documentation of funds of knowledge of the teachers themselves.
It is very important, I think, especially in an early childhood or in a Head Start context, to understand how teachers experiences, live experiences, interact with the academic knowledge and pedagogical knowledge and concepts they are supposed to master as professional educators. There is always a filter in acquiring these more academic concepts and that filter are the social and emotional experiences of our lives. So in a sense, the teacher's funds of knowledge become part and parcel of that, of that element needed to assimilate the pedagogical knowledge and become an outstanding teacher.Close
Reflect on the following questions after viewing the video:
- What do you do to help staff become aware of the personal "funds of knowledge" they bring to work?
- How do your staff learn about the "funds of knowledge" that the children and families with whom they work bring to the equation?
Explore this series of guides to learn more about the role that positive, goal-oriented relationships play in effective parent, family, and community engagement and school readiness. It offers definitions, tools, and guides for reflective practice and supervision.
This webpage features a variety of resources on supporting fathers/father figures in engaging with their children and with the program.
Head Start and Early Head Start programs have practiced parent involvement and parent engagement for years, prioritizing activities related to both performance standards and program innovation. This paper helps clarify the Office of Head Start (OHS) change in terms and concepts from parent involvement to family engagement.
Wondering how you can use data to strengthen your work with families? Explore this series to learn relationship-based ways to partner with families and support progress on parent, family, and community engagement outcomes.
Watch this video to see how one program effectively partners with families and local organizations to build a strong community. See how family well-being and children’s healthy development are rooted in a respect for culture, values, and home language.
The Research to Practice Series addresses each of the Family Engagement Outcomes of the OHS Parent, Family, and Community Engagement Framework. Aligned with the HSPPS, each resource presents a summary of selected research, proven interventions and promising practices, and program strategies that programs can use to foster strong relationships and support positive outcomes for children, families, and staff.
11 National Center on Parent, Family, and Community Engagement, Parent Involvement as Family Engagement 2.0: Understanding the Difference in Terms and Concepts (Washington, DC: Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children, Office of Head Start), https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/fam-engage-parent-inv.pdf.
National Centers:Early Childhood Development, Teaching and Learning
Last Updated: February 19, 2021