In May, 2016, the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Education (ED) released a policy statement titled Family Engagement From The Early Years To The Early Grades. The statement defines family engagement as:
The systematic inclusion of families in activities and programs that promote children’s development, learning, and wellness, including in the planning, development, and evaluation of such activities, programs, and systems.
The statement affirms that young children’s lives and their families are meshed, and that the families children’s most important teachers, advocates, and nurturers. It goes on to say that engagement from the family early on is central to promoting a children’s healthy development in all areas of life.
It highlights important study-based research which demonstrates the importance of reading at home, nurturing relationships between parents and teachers, and working together in the community to help increase family wellness. Included in the statement is a section on the importance of parental social networks:
Parents who have more supportive and extensive social networks and feel greater connection to their communities create warmer, more responsive, and more stimulating home environments for their children; communicate better with their children; and feel more confident in their role as parents.
10 Principles of Effective Family Engagement
The statement includes the following principles of effective family engagement:
1. Create continuity and consistency for children and families.
2. Value respectful and trusting relationships between families and professionals.
3. Develop goal-oriented relationships with families that are linked to children’s development
4. Engage families around children’s health, mental health, and social and emotional well-being.
Engage families around children’s development, learning, and wellness, including physical health,
mental health, and social and emotional needs.
5. Ensure that all family engagement opportunities are culturally and linguistically responsive.
6. Build staff capacity to implement family engagement practice principles.
7. Support families’ connections and capabilities.
8. Systemically embed effective family engagement strategies within early childhood systems and
9. Develop strong relationships with community partners that support families.
10. Continuously learn and improve.
Success in early learning begins when we trust and partner with parents to support them.
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Parents: You Are Exactly What Your Child Needs
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