To create lasting change for families and children, Head Start programs need strong foundations that work together: Program Leadership, Professional Development, and Continuous Learning and Quality Improvement.
Program leaders play a key role in setting program goals and guiding staff in implementation. Some programs have goals or objectives that are specific to financial, education, and employment topics. Other programs may address these topics in other ways to strengthen family well-being. Regardless of the structure, all programs are likely to find areas that are strong and areas the program leadership and staff could enhance or explore further. Program and parent leaders and staff can partner to make decisions and carry out plans to increase family economic mobility.
Program leaders can learn more about setting program goals, objectives, and action plans in the Foundations for Excellence: A Guide for Five-year Planning and Continuous Improvement.
Continuous Learning and Quality Improvement
Head Start programs who create a culture of learning and continuous improvement achieve better outcomes for children and families. Data can be used to help improve the quality of community partnerships to support family economic mobility. Since financial well-being, education, and employment are often crucial aspects of family goals, you will want to learn continuously about the progress you and your program are making to strengthen partnerships with families and community agencies. You can do this by:
- Looking at how your program already collects and analyzes data about families’ financial situations.
- Asking families at enrollment about their economic mobility goals and revisiting those goals periodically through the Family Partnership Process.
- Thinking about how you use data across the program to assess your efforts. Are you putting the right effort into the right places? Are you offering the services and support that address families’ interests?
- Asking families and community partners for feedback about their experiences in partnering together and with you to make progress toward families’ goals.
- Sharing aggregate program and family data with staff, families, and community partners to plan and make decisions about services to advance families’ economic mobility.
Programs can look at all the data you already collect, determine if it is the right data, think about what story the data tells you, and finally make decisions about program goals and strengthen your program offerings. Programs can design a process that engages families, community partners, program directors, managers, and staff that work with families to learn from each other about opportunities for quality improvement.
Professional development is critical to effective program efforts to partner with families. If staff and leadership feel competent in their own understanding of economic mobility topics, they can feel more confident about engaging families in sensitive conversations when appropriate opportunities arise.
Ongoing professional development supports, such as supervision and coaching, can help staff conduct these conversations in ways that are respectful and encouraging. Programs can offer training to staff, families, and community partners.
Resource Type: Article
National Centers: Parent, Family and Community Engagement
Last Updated: September 7, 2023