Looking at the
Big Picture

Did you know?

As Family Services Staff, you are often with families through every step of their journey with Head Start/Early Head Start. Your role is critical to supporting children’s learning and healthy development. The culturally responsive partnerships you create with families are an important part of building a strong foundation for children to succeed in school and in life. As research suggests, parents and family members are more likely to become engaged in their young child’s development and learning when they have positive and trusting relationships with those who support them.1 From the first time you connect with a family until a family transitions out of the program, you have an opportunity to support positive parent-child relationships [PDF, 509KB] that are critical for children’s development and school readiness.

From the start, you are building the positive goal-oriented relationships that will support families and their children.  You work together to find the right placement for the child and prepare for enrollment in the program. You develop your relationship as you take steps to ensure that the family is aware of the program requirements, ways to contribute to the program and community services. When the child is accepted, you and the family have already achieved a common goal. Together you have established a partnership that will be key on the road to school readiness.

Once the child has entered the program, you partner with the family and program staff to support children’s development and learning. How? During the process of goal setting and developing the Family Partnership Agreement, you and the family can define goals and strategies that address both the family’s and child’s strengths and needs. You are recognizing parents as their child’s most important advocates and teachers, encouraging the positive parent-child relationships that are key to children’s success. As Family Service Staff you understand and respect the changing dynamics of children, families and communities. Your work communicates how much the program values the family’s support in getting the child for school.

Over the course of the program year, you work with program staff to develop plans to engage the family in their children’s learning based on the goals and dreams that the family identified. You serve as a bridge between the family and staff to promote children’s learning and well-being in the program and at home.  As an advocate for the family, you and other program staff can identify strategies to address strengths and challenges to the child or family’s progress.  You partner with teachers, home visitors and other staff to review ongoing child assessment data [PDF, 2.2MB] and communicate about the child’s progress with the family.  Together, cross-service teams can aggregate and use the data to inform continuous improvement at the program level.  Over time you continue to work with the family and community partners to strengthen their overall family well-being – a predictor of school readiness.

As the child and the family begin the transition from the program, community and school partnerships become more critical, especially during the transition to kindergarten [PDF, 1.3MB] and other school settings.  Your effort to connect families and partners supports the Head Start Approach to School Readiness.  This means children are ready for school, families are ready to support their children’s learning, and schools are ready for children.

On the road to school readiness, you are a bridge between families, teachers, home visitors, other program staff and community partners. Your role in family services promotes the family’s growth and positive relationships with their child, critical for the child’s life-long learning and well-being.

1Bryk, A.S. & Schneider, B. (2003). Trust in schools: a core resource for school reform. Educational Leadership, 60(6).

Last Reviewed: June 2014

Last Updated: September 5, 2014