Strategies to Support and Engage Families Virtually

Virtual Service Planning Tips

Use the following tips to gather the information you need to begin planning virtual family engagement services. These tips also can help strengthen your current practices and support ongoing improvement. Consider the strengths and interests of each family when selecting and refining virtual services. 

Meet families where they are.

As you design your virtual engagement approach, take steps to understand families’ level of comfort with technology and tools. Consider their access to the internet and devices. If you can, provide families with technology devices, internet hotspots, or cell phone data and minutes. Ask families about their preferred methods of virtual communication and individualize communication strategies for each.

Establish processes to gather continuous feedback from families.

Check in with your families to find out if the frequency and type of communication provided is working for them. Is it too much, not enough, or just the right amount?

Find a balance.

Many families and children are spending a lot of time in front of a screen. Support families in balancing interactive and educational screen time in their daily routine.

Individualize approaches for families and communities.

Consider the needs of all enrolled families, including:

  • American Indian and Alaska Native families
    • Partner with community services and programs, such as the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, to help with access to the internet or devices. Internet and cell access may be limited in rural or tribal areas.
    • Engage extended family members, tribal leaders, and community members in addition to parents.
    • Include families in meaningful decision-making roles about their children’s learning and development. Seek to build culturally relevant practices and trust that include approaches to virtual engagement.
  • Migrant and Seasonal Head Start families
    • Be flexible when you engage with families. Make sure you work with their schedules. Families may only be available outside of traditional work hours.
    • Communicate with families in their preferred language whenever possible; consider using virtual translation platforms. Learn a few words of their preferred language if you are not a fluent speaker or do not have access to translation services.
    • Connect with families through communication (e.g., text messages, voicemail) that can be replayed, reread, or translated by others.
  • Families who move a lot or are experiencing homelessness
    • Try many ways to reach families, including social media, email, phone calls, and texting. Do not require video, as some families may not have the bandwidth or may not want to “share” their surroundings.
    • With permission from families, keep a list of other people to contact in case you have trouble reaching them.
    • Provide prepaid phone cards to families to keep in contact, if possible.