Family Engagement for Child Care Environments – Quality Start

Family Engagement is Important for Child Care Environments

When a child is enrolled in a care environment, parents and caretakers enter a partnership with the educators there. This partnership is built on the common goal to further the development and success of the child. A parent’s job is to thoroughly assess a potential environment to ensure it is the best fit. And a significant part of the teacher and staff’s job is to include parents in the program for the betterment of all. This practice is referred to as family engagement. Family engagement in a child care environment means teachers actively guide and support families, encourage involvement in the child’s learning experience, and share knowledge. It takes both teachers and families to create a successful family engagement practice.

Step One in Family Engagement: Parent Engagement

A parent looking for the right child care may feel overwhelmed when beginning their search. They need something that will meet their baseline needs: schedule, commute, and finances. Additionally, there are specific criteria they should look for to ensure the effectual support and safety of their child. This criterion is based on proven characteristics of high quality care.  The level of a program’s quality and their commitment to family engagement can be determined by asking the following questions:

Parent questions for family engagement:

  • Is the program licensed? If not, why?
  • Does the program offer services for the age level/group you are looking for? Some programs are only infant/toddler focused while others are for preschool ages.
  • Is the provider and/or staff taking additional training, certification, or pursing relevant higher education opportunities?
  • What is the program’s philosophy, mission, and values? Do they match your values?
  • Do you feel safe? Do you feel the teachers, program and philosophy implemented are a safe and welcoming program for your child and for you as a parent?
  • What are the emergency procedures set in place? Emergency preparedness includes plans for fire, earthquake, storm, and more.
  • What is the curriculum being implemented and is it developmentally appropriate?
  • Take a look at the ratios. Are they better than the required state ratios? Ratios should be listed in an accessible place for parents to view like on parent board or at the entrance of program, etc.
  • Assess the cleanliness. Are the cleanliness protocols placed in visible and applicable locations like the hand washing protocol next to the sink? Overall, is the program clean and is there consistency of cleaning practices?
  • Is there an established and shared daily schedule and meal plan?
  • Is there a parent board? Parent notices, requirements, health and safety items must be posted as a requirement of California licensing.
  • Does the program communicate openly about their fees, and do they share programs to help parents with payment needs?

Local resource and referrals are available to help in the journey it can be to find child care.

Step Two in Family Engagement: Provider Engagement

Child care programs work hard to provide the best possible care and education to the children they serve. It is important they let families know about that hard work. It will benefit them, the children, and strengthen their partnership with parents.

Family engagement ideas for private centers and family child care programs:

  • Have a parent program orientation every school year to introduce parents to the classroom and the theories and practices that are being implemented to help all children thrive. If able, consider offering a snack or meal before the meeting and child care during so parents can really focus.
    • Use this time to collect data on the families you are serving with a family engagement survey -EXAMPLE
  • Schedule family events throughout the year to bring families together to learn more about each other, the program, and even community resources.
    • Possible options: international food day to celebrate diversity, host a grandparent’s reading day, hold a family fun children’s fair, bake-off or raffle, movie night.
    • Remember, simple activities are perfect. Choose the time, topic, and scope that best fits your program’s size and capabilities. The goal is to get parents and families to your site.
  • You have a lot to manage, create a parent group to take charge of a program event. That’s double the engagement!
  • Offer parent volunteer opportunities for parents who’ve completed their background checks. Make sure to follow state guidelines when inviting non-staff to your site.
  • Survey parents on topics they’d like to know more about (behavioral, development and so on) and hold training opportunities.
  • Make an accessible community resource binder for parents to search by need or interest.
  • Finally, commit to consistent daily or weekly communication and reminders of upcoming events.

Family engagement ideas for centers and state preschools:

When it comes to allowable family engagement activities, large centers and state preschools may have more restrictions due to state regulations. However, there are still options to choose from.

  • Host parent orientations in the beginning of the school year to share schedules, lesson-plans, set expectations and open conversation and questions. Teachers can even share classroom strategies that can be used at home, like child self-regulation, to establish consistent practices.
  • Provide volunteer opportunities for parents/guardians who’ve completed the necessary steps.
  • Set up monthly messaging to communicate events and other goings on. Offer families opportunities to be a part of the events.
  • Host age-appropriate fun filled days like an infant/toddler crawl and play day or a preschool ball time.
  • Compile and regularly share available community resources.

Programs and children will thrive when providers engage parents and caretakers, invite their participation, and encourage consistent communication. Keep your eye on the QSSB calendar of trainings that strengthen provider practices like engagement.

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