A program with a solid foundation of strong leadership, a culture of continuous improvement, and relevant opportunities for professional development will be prepared to deliver economic mobility services in the five impact areas: Program Environment, Family Partnerships, Teaching and Learning, Community Partnerships, and Access and Continuity.
Program environment refers to the physical features as well as the relationships among people and the overall culture of the program. Your program may already have information about financial capability, adult education, and employment and training resources in the community displayed in common spaces. You may already post flyers and information about accessing tax credits during tax season where families can see them.
Your program might also host financial education classes for staff, family members, and community members. These kinds of classes can open up conversations about the topic of finances, making it more comfortable to discuss. When there is a culture of learning and partnering together, families and staff are more open and willing to set and share their goals. Create a program environment that welcomes families’ ideas by including families in the development of financial education classes. Asking families to share their wisdom, expertise, and experience on economic mobility topics shows families their voices and experiences are honored and respected in the program. Consider asking a parent or caregiver to help plan an upcoming event or co-facilitate a financial education class with a Head Start staff member or community organization.
The heart of our work is partnering with families so we all can act together to make progress toward the goals and aspirations that families define for themselves. Some families may feel comfortable creating goals about their financial future, such as owning a house. For other families, financial issues may feel particularly difficult to discuss, whether due to their current circumstances or personal beliefs and values. Strong relationships between family members and staff build trust that can make these conversations more comfortable.
When building partnerships with families, staff should focus on the expertise families have in their own lives and communities. Staff can ask open-ended questions and show curiosity in families to learn more about their cultural backgrounds, strengths, and interests. When families feel respected, honored, and listened to, they are more likely to feel the sense of power and autonomy needed to make progress toward economic mobility goals.
Teaching and Learning
We recognize families as equal partners in their child’s learning and development. Parent activities to promote child learning and development, 45 CFR §1302.51(a) states that “a program must promote shared responsibility with parents for children’s early learning and development, and implement family engagement strategies that are designed to foster parental confidence and skills in promoting children’s learning and development.”
Families may feel unsure about how much to share with their children about money and finances or how to teach them the financial skills they themselves may not have learned until adulthood. When your program sets goals and works with families toward economic mobility, think about how families can shape children’s understanding of financial issues. Learn more with this Sesame Workshop resource.
Create opportunities for parents to learn developmentally appropriate ways to talk with and teach their children about financial capabilities, education, and employment topics. Bring the topic of money into classroom curricula using age-appropriate content so that children can talk at home about what they are learning in the program.
It takes a village to raise a child, and it also takes a village to support family economic mobility. Particularly, when it comes to economic mobility, programs will find it useful to focus on community partnerships that strengthen the work they are doing. When programs collaborate, network, and create partnerships with local, state, or national organizations, and businesses or government agencies, they are better able to support families in making progress toward economic stability and mobility. These partnerships are crucial, as programs cannot provide all of the information and services that families may want to access. You may already have some ideas about who provides financial education and services in your community from your community assessment. Consider the community partnership ideas below that program staff can use to support economic mobility:
- Develop a memorandum of understanding (MOUs) with local Chamber of Commerce or business alliance groups to bring job training, apprenticeship opportunities, financial education classes, career fairs, and employment opportunities to Head Start families.
- Work with local banks or credit unions to support families in opening up Children’s Savings Accounts, and identify local businesses or community leaders that may be interested in offering funds to match investments into the savings accounts. When partnering with banks or credit unions, staff should be mindful that some families may not feel comfortable or interested in working with these financial institutions due to a family’s immigration status or past experiences.
- Reach out to local restaurants or grocery stores to find out what they do with food at the end of the day. Many restaurants and grocery stores throw away fresh food and meals each day, that could be given to families in need. Program staff can offer to pick up the food so it is not wasted, and distribute the food to program families.
- Participate in community-wide initiatives or collaborative groups that come together to identify community-driven solutions to housing, food, or employment access. If these initiatives or collaboratives do not exist in your community, consider working with community partners to start one.
Access and Continuity
Staff should make intentional efforts to ensure the children and families who need Head Start services the most are able to access the program. Programs use information from the community assessment to determine eligibility criteria, and create ongoing recruitment efforts to recruit these families. As part of your recruitment efforts, Head Start staff should describe the family economic mobility services the program offers, so families understand all of the benefits of being enrolled in your Head Start program. Programs can share recruitment flyers with local banks, credit unions, check-cashing services, and currency exchanges, so when families go to these financial institutions, they also learn about your Head Start program.
Program staff should consider the attitudes and beliefs you have as you recruit families. Instead of thinking of some families as “hard to reach,” consider if your program is accessible to families who are most in need of services? What are the barriers preventing families from enrolling in your program? How can you reduce or eliminate those barriers?
Learn more about ensuring equitable access to Head Start services.
Once families enroll in your program, continuity means ensuring families receive support as they navigate expected and unexpected life transitions. If you develop a family economic mobility goal with a family and the family transitions out of your Head Start program, connect the family to local community partners to ensure they continue receiving support around that goal. By collaborating with community partners, Head Start programs can support families in experiencing smooth transitions and reduce a sense of isolation when navigating change.
Learn more about engaging community partners to strengthen family services.
Resource Type: Article
National Centers: Parent, Family and Community Engagement
Last Updated: September 7, 2023