7.4 Promoting Partnerships with Families

What Is It?

Emphasize the importance of family partnerships during joint home visits, supervision, training, and other staff development efforts. Home visitors should be well informed about the family partnership agreement process, family support services, and family engagement.

The family partnership agreement process outlined describes the partnering that occurs between your program and the families it serves.

The Family Partnership process offers individualized services that:

  • Supports family well-being.
  • Fosters parental confidence and skills in promoting the early learning and development of their child(ren).
  • Collaborate with families to identify interests, needs, and aspirations related to the family engagement outcomes.
  • Help families achieve identified individualized family engagement outcomes.
  • Establish and implement a family partnership agreement process that is jointly developed and shared with parents in which staff and families to review individual progress, revise goals, evaluate and track whether identified needs and goals are met, and adjust strategies on an ongoing basis, as necessary.
  • Assign staff and resources based on the urgency and intensity of identified family needs and goals.

The Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS) do not require a specific written agreement; you can create any method of documenting this partnership between families and home visitors that reflects the needs of your families and program. You support this process during supervision and through staff training to help home visitors

  • build relationships with families,
  • assess family strengths and needs,
  • incorporate family goals,
  • link family needs with services and services with desired outcomes,
  • establish partnerships with community service providers, and
  • increase their knowledge of family support services and strategies.

You also work with home visitors to strengthen family engagement in your program. Family engagement refers to ongoing, goal-directed relationships between staff and families that are mutual and culturally responsive, and that support what is best for children and families both individually and collectively. Staff and families share responsibility for the children’s learning and development, the children and families’ progress toward outcomes, and parent involvement in the program. Encouraging parent involvement—providing opportunities for parent participation in a variety of program activities that support child and adult development, including policy and program decision making—is a part of this larger construct of family engagement.1

  1. National Center on Parent, Family, and Community Engagement (PFCE), Parent Involvement as Family Engagement 2.0: Understanding the Difference in Terms and Concepts (Washington, DC: Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children, Office of Head Start), http://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc/tta-system/family/docs/revised-parent-engagement-as-pi.pdf

How To

Support home visitors in developing meaningful family partnerships during home visits by helping them do the following:

Build relationships with families

The overarching goal of developing the family partnership agreement is for home visitors to build relationships with families in which they work closely together toward the children’s optimal learning and development.

  • Use reflective supervision to help staff empathize with families and provide an experience of unconditional caring.
  • Make (or change, if necessary) staff assignments based on home visitors’ capacities to engage families in positive relationships.

Assess family strengths and needs

At times, home visitors may be so overwhelmed by families’ needs that they have difficulty identifying the resources families have at their disposal.

  • Provide opportunities for home visitors to identify family strengths and discuss how family members can use their strengths to accomplish goals.
  • Emphasize the message that home visitors support families in assessing their own strengths and needs.

Incorporate family goals

Home visitors help parents identify the goals they have for themselves and their children.

  • During reflective supervision and training, highlight listening to the “family’s voice” and reflecting their identified goals in the family partnership agreement.
  • Work with home visitors to incorporate families’ developmental goals for their children into curriculum experiences.

Link family needs with services and services with desired outcomes

The family partnership agreement should connect family needs with specific services that address those needs and lead to positive outcomes.

  • Help home visitors think explicitly about the type and intensity of services that would enable families to reach their goals.
  • Review ongoing assessments of family progress with home visitors to determine whether services are configured in ways that best meet families’ needs and goals.

Establish partnerships with community service providers

Your program provides comprehensive services to families through strong community collaboration.

  • Provide an up-to-date list of community service providers to home visitors.
  • Establish respectful, professional relationships with service providers and when appropriate, facilitate the development of formal, collaborative agreements.
  • Encourage home visitors to develop respectful, professional relationships with the service providers with whom they regularly interact. Accompany home visitors when they visit service providers, as needed.
  • Encourage community service providers to join your Health Services Advisory Committee; attend meetings when possible and invite home visitors to attend when appropriate.

Increase home visitors' knowledge of family support services

These services should be linked to the family partnership agreement and to family and program outcomes.

  • Provide home visitors with information about family entitlements (e.g., income assistance, child care, medical assistance) and what families must do to receive such assistance (e.g., obtain work mandates).
  • Encourage home visitors to recognize that parents/families are their child’s health champion. Provide information about how home visitors can promote family health literacy by encouraging families to ask questions and request health information they can understand from their child’s medical provider. Consider incorporating the Well-Visit Planner tool for parents and families into your program.
  • Provide information about family support strategies. Help home visitors develop and strengthen skills such as
    • basic communication (e.g., active listening)
    • ability to empathize with adults
    • problem solving
    • supporting families experiencing crises
    • recognizing signs and symptoms of mental health difficulties
    • family engagement
    • using community resources

Strengthen family engagement in your program

Home visitors work as collaborative partners with parents/families to increase their involvement and engagement in the program.

  • Work with home visitors to build strengths-based attitudes and relationship-based practices that contribute to positive goal-oriented relationships with families.
  • Provide information about parents’ pivotal role in program governance and decision-making and the vehicles for governance (e.g., policy council, policy committee, parent committee) so that home visitors can share this information with families and encourage them to participate.
  • Help home visitors look for opportunities for connecting parents/families to the larger program, for example, inviting parents to participate in planning and leading program activities, including those that come from parents’ suggestions.
  • Work with home visitors to engage fathers or father figures in children’s lives during home visits.

Experience It

Promoting Partnerships with Families Clip 1

Jerlean Daniel, former executive director, National Association for the Education of Young Children, talks about the cultural implications of high-quality, family-centered programs.

Reflection Questions:

  1. Do your program mission and vision statements welcome families in the way this clip describes?
  2. How could you revise the materials you share with families to reflect a true partnership?

Promoting Partnerships with Families Clip 2

In this short video, Luis Moll describes the concept of “funds of knowledge.” Funds of knowledge are the essential cultural practices and bodies of knowledge that are embedded in the daily practices and routines of families. Although the video focuses on teachers, the information about approaching families as learners and seeking to understand families’ experiences, including work experiences, social practices, and social history is relevant for home visitors.

Reflection Questions:

  1. What do you do to help staff become aware of the personal "Funds of Knowledge" they bring to work?
  2. How do your staff learn about the "Funds of Knowledge" that the children and families with whom they work bring to the equation?

Learn More

Explore this guide to learn more about the role that positive, goal-oriented relationships play in effective parent, family, and community engagement and school readiness. It offers definitions, tools, and guides for reflective practice and supervision.

This web page features a variety of resources on supporting fathers/father figures in engaging with their children and with the program.

Wondering how you can use data to strengthen your work with families? Explore this series to learn relationship-based ways to partner with families and support progress on Parent, Family, and Community Engagement Outcomes.

HS/EHS programs have practiced parent involvement and parent engagement for years, prioritizing activities related to both performance standards and program innovation. The purpose of this paper is to help clarify the OHS change in terms and concepts from parent involvement to family engagement.

Watch this video to see how one program effectively partners with families and local organizations to build a strong community. See how family well-being and children’s healthy development is rooted in a respect for culture, values, and home language. Successful partnerships contribute to community wellness and better outcomes for families and children, including school readiness.

The Research to Practice Series addresses each of the Family Engagement Outcomes of the Office of Head Start Parent, Family, and Community Engagement Framework. Aligned with Head Start Performance Standards, each resource presents a summary of selected research, proven interventions and promising practices, and program strategies intended to be useful for the Head Start and Early Head Start community. Designed to support program efforts toward systemic and integrated engagement, the series highlights strategies that programs can use to foster strong relationships and support positive outcomes for children, families, and staff.