Frameworks for understanding effective family engagement

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Working with families and communities is at the heart of what we do at LENA.

Because the communities that we serve are spread out across the country and around the world — reaching from Florida and Alabama all the way to England and New Zealand — we rely on the expertise of our partner organizations, who are trusted and established within their communities, to tailor LENA programs to meet local needs.

Broadly, we frame the work we do through several well-established definitions of family engagement that have been refined by leaders in the early childhood education field. We recognize and respect these leaders in the field, both organizations and individuals, and stay up to date on emerging research and initiatives in this area to inform our programs.

In particular, we’re excited to see an updated Parent, Family and Community Engagement Framework from the Office of Head Start. This framework increases responsiveness to the needs of families and drives stronger outcomes for children and their caregivers.

The definitions of family engagement that we use to guide our work at LENA include:

  1. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) found that successful family engagement encompasses six principles:
    • Programs invite families to participate in decision making and goal setting for their child.
    • Teachers and programs engage families in two-way communication.
    • Programs and teachers engage families in ways that are truly reciprocal.
    • Programs provide learning activities for the home and in the community.
    • Programs invite families to participate in program-level decisions and wider advocacy efforts.
    • Programs implement a comprehensive program-level system of family engagement.
  2. The Office of Head Start, Administration for Children and Families defines family engagement in its Head Start Parent, Family, and Community Engagement (PFCE) Framework:

    “Family engagement is an interactive process through which program staff and families, family members, and their children build positive and goal-oriented relationships. It is a shared responsibility of families and professionals that requires mutual respect for the roles and strengths each has to offer. Family engagement means doing with — not doing to or for — families.”

  3. Families in Schools, a nonprofit organization based out of California, lists several key indicators that child care centers and schools that are effectively engaging families have in common:
    • A Welcoming Environment
    • Effective School-Family Communication
    • Meaningful Resources for Families
    • Shared Leadership
    • Conflict Resolution
    • Adequate Financial Resources
  4. Epstein’s Six Types of Parent Involvement is a framework developed by Dr. Joyce Epstein of Johns Hopkins University to support teachers in creating school and family partnership programs:
    • Parenting: Help all families establish home environments to support children as students.
    • Communicating: Design effective forms of school-to-home and home-to-school communications about school programs and children’s progress.
    • Volunteering: Recruit and organize parent help and support.
    • Learning at home: Provide information and ideas to families about how to help students at home with homework and other curriculum-related activities, decisions, and planning.
    • Decision-making: Include families as participants in school decisions and develop parent leaders and representatives.
    • Collaborating with Community: Coordinate resources and services from the community for families, students, and the school, and provide services to the community.

How does your organization think about engaging families? Share your thoughts, resources, and frameworks for understanding family engagement in the comments below.

LENA Team

The LENA Team is a dedicated group of professionals who are passionate about increasing awareness of the importance of early interactive talk. We are statisticians, speech-language pathologists, curriculum specialists, engineers and linguists.

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