Family and child assessments offer many opportunities for staff and families to have conversations that can strengthen their partnerships. Families often share important stories and information about themselves and their children. Your role in this phase is to truly listen to families and provide a nonjudgmental space for them to share.
Listening and Observing
During the family and child assessment phase, staff often learn which services family members already receive from other agencies and where they might need more support or resources. This phase is a good opportunity for staff to listen to families and learn about their strengths and basic needs. Securing basic needs and stability are key steps toward family economic mobility. During this phase, you may also begin to hear about families’ goals and aspirations. Family and child assessment conversations offer an opportunity to build a positive, ongoing, and goal-oriented partnership between families and staff. The strengths and needs assessment that many programs offer during this phase might also help families decide what is important to them.
From a lens of family economic mobility, staff can listen carefully for references associated with economic growth. For example, a parent might mention their desire to enroll in a GED program to increase their success at applying for higher paying employment options. They might mention that they already have access to the food bank and other key community resources to stretch their budget. They may also mention that they recently took a second job or accessed the Child Tax Credit and are able to purchase a car. As you listen, keep in mind information gained in the assessment to later inform future goal-setting conversations.
Focus on Listening and Building a Relationship
The conversations in this phase offer the continued opportunity for relationship-building and getting to know a family's current strengths, interests, and needs. Do not push families to share if they are not ready to do so. They may never be ready or interested in sharing certain information about themselves, and that is OK! As staff and families build a relationship based on mutual respect and trust, families may be more likely to share more about themselves, their strengths, goals, and needs.
More Ways to Learn About Family Needs and Aspirations
Head Start staff can learn about family strengths, goals, and needs throughout the Family Partnership Process and from daily interactions with families. This might include intake conversations, casual interactions, phone calls, and the initial home visit.
Staff also can use surveys and conversations to develop a complete picture of a family or group of families’ current financial situation or financial capability. Collecting data requires a time commitment from both staff and families. This kind of data, however, provides important information for how best to partner with families.
Staff can use the data from their information-gathering efforts to learn more about families’ economic lives. The information then can help staff have informed conversations with families and ensure that staff know which resources and information families are most interested in accessing.
Ready to refer? Learn more about the Refer-Partner-Provide process.
Learn More with These Resources
- Culturally Responsive Parent Engagement (video)
- Measuring What Matters: Using Data to Support Family Progress (resource collection)
- Child screenings and assessments, 45 CFR §1302.33 (article)
- Family partnership services, 45 CFR §1302.52 (article)
Resource Type: Article
National Centers: Parent, Family and Community Engagement
Last Updated: September 7, 2023