Individual Level Components
- Parenting: Build families’ knowledge and leadership to understand positive youth development and to provide home environments that support their children’s health, social, and academic success at every age.
- Communication: Communicate clearly and directly with families about programs and their children’s progress through effective channels.
- Volunteering: Provide or improve recruitment, training, tasks, and schedules to accommodate family volunteer opportunities that support their children and programs and help create safe and healthy environments for their children.
- Learning at Home: Assist families with learning activities at home for their children, including participation with homework and other academic-related projects.
- Decision-Making: Build parents’ decision-making skills, and include families as participants in decisions, governance, and advocacy through councils, committees, action teams, and other parent organizations.
- Community Collaboration: Coordinate with schools, businesses, agencies, and community groups to deliver resources and services for children and families and to provide services to other community organizations.
School System Level Components
- Districtwide Priority: Ensure family engagement is a priority strategy in supporting learning and development. This can be achieved when superintendents and other leaders have a clear vision that links family engagement to instructional goals, creates an infrastructure to elevate and communicate the importance of family engagement, and assesses progress and performance.
- School Capacity: Enable schools to acquire the ability to connect with parents and perform strategic family engagement activities that align with the instructional goals of the district. This can be achieved through ongoing professional development and technical assistance for principals, teachers, and other “family-facing” staff, including programs and initiatives to help school personnel welcome and involve families in their children’s learning.
- Outreach and Connection with Parents and the Community: Encourage families to be part of planning and decision-making in schools; have high expectations for their children’s learning, both at school and in the home; and develop and share their strategies for supporting student success. Family outreach can be achieved directly or indirectly through listening sessions, special events, advocacy activities, school decisions, Parent Teacher Associations or Parent Teacher Organizations, and workshops. Reach out to the community to coordinate information, resources, and services from businesses, cultural and civic organizations, social service agencies, faith-based organizations, health clinics, institutions of higher education, and other groups that can benefit students and families.
Systems of Care Level Components
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a "system of care" is an organizational philosophy and framework that involves collaboration across agencies, families, and youth for the purpose of improving access and expanding the array of coordinated community-based, culturally and linguistically competent services and supports for children and youth and their families. One of SAMHSA’s core values for systems of care is a family driven approach, where the needs of the child and family dictate the types and mix of services provided, and families have a primary decision-making role in the care of their children, as well as in the policies and procedures governing care for all children in their community, state, tribe, territory, and nation.5
Further, in the child welfare system, the elements that foster supportive and trusting relationships between caseworkers and families also support family engagement practices:6
- Family-Centered Practice: Commit to family-centered practice and its underlying philosophy and values.
- Contact: Utilize sufficient frequency and length of contact with families and all of their supports.
- Communication: Set a foundation for building trust by communicating clearly, honestly, and respectfully with families.
- Concrete Services: Help to facilitate the provision of concrete services that meet families’ immediate needs for food, housing, child care, transportation, and other costs.
- Individualized Service Plans: Create individualized service plans that expand on traditional service packages to respond to parents’ needs, specific circumstances, and available supports.
- Strengths-Based Approach: Recognize and reinforce the capabilities of families, not just their needs and problems.
- Shared Decision-Making and Participatory Planning: Mutually agree on goals and plans that reflect the caseworker’s professional training and the family’s knowledge of their own situation.
- Broad-Based Involvement: Create a web of support for parents, extended family members, informal networks, and community representatives that promotes safety, increases permanency options, and provides links to needed services.
- Foster and Adoptive Parent Resources: Recognize foster and adoptive parents as resources for children and youth in their care.
- Parent Praise and Recognition: Praise and recognize parents who are making life changes resulting in safe and permanent living situations for their children.
- Confidentiality: Understand the role of confidentiality and how to involve partners in case planning in a way that is respectful of the family and enables partners to create realistic plans.
Center on School, Family, and Community Partnerships
The Center on School, Family, and Community Partnerships at Johns Hopkins University works with the members of the National Network of Partnership Schools to study the nature and results of family involvement. The Center provides research, programs, and policy analyses to understand how to help parents, educators, and community members partner together to improve schools, strengthen families, and enhance student learning and development.
Closing The Gap: Cultural Perspectives on Family-Driven Care (PDF, 39 pages)
This paper begins the discussion about the role of culture when working with families, describes family-driven care from four cultural perspectives, and discusses the role and importance of incorporating family culture, as defined by families, in outreach to, engagement, and involvement of families in care. The paper was developed by the Technical Assistance Partnership for Child and Family Mental Health through partial support from the Center for Mental Health Services’ (CMHS) Child, Adolescent and Family Branch within the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
Coalition for Community Schools: Parent/Family Member
Community schools are a set of partnerships between schools and community-based organizations to provide comprehensive academic, health, and social services to students and their families. The Parent/Family Member section of the website provides resources to help parents and family members with family engagement.
Family Engagement Inventory
The Family Engagement Inventory (FEI) is a free, interactive website designed to familiarize professionals in child welfare, juvenile justice, behavioral health, early childhood education, and education with family engagement, as defined and implemented across these fields of practice. The site aggregates knowledge in a way that helps professionals in multidisciplinary exploration of family engagement. FEI helps practitioners, managers, and system leaders understand the commonalities and differences in family engagement across the disciplines to support collaboration among the multiple systems that often work with the same families. FEI is a product of the Child Welfare Information Gateway, which is a service from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
School Turnaround Learning Community
The U.S. Department of Education’s School Turnaround Learning Community provides support to state, district, and school leaders who are working to turn around the nation’s lowest-achieving schools. The website offers resources and tools that enable users to share school turnaround practices and lessons learned, including those focused on family and community engagement, to strengthen teaching and learning for all schools.
Seeing Is Believing: Promising Practices for How School Districts Promote Family Engagement (PDF, 16 pages)
This policy brief from the Harvard Family Research Project and the National Parent-Teacher Association examines the role of school districts in promoting family engagement. The brief spotlights how six school districts have used innovative strategies to create and sustain family engagement “systems at work,” identifies three core components of these successful systems, and outlines key policy recommendations.
TIP 59 — A Treatment Improvement Protocol: Improving Cultural Competence (PDF, 340 pages)
This guide from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration discusses racial, ethnic, and cultural considerations and the core elements of cultural competence and assists professional care providers and administrators in understanding the role of culture in the delivery of substance abuse and mental health services, including steps for culturally responsive evaluation and treatment planning with patients and their families.
You for Youth: Cultural Competence
This self-paced online tutorial from the U.S. Department of Education’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers’ You 4 Youth program outlines how to incorporate family involvement into programs by understanding the cultures of the families served, examining the views and assumptions held about those families and their cultures, and finding ways to recognize and incorporate families’ cultures into programs.
You for Youth: Family Engagement
This self-paced online tutorial from the U.S. Department of Education’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers’ You 4 Youth program outlines the key building blocks to creating high family involvement and teaches participants to forge strong links to students’ families, to involve them in youth program and initiatives, and to overcome challenges.