You for Youth logo
Online Professional Learning and
Technical Assistance for
21st Century Community Learning Centers
  1. Contact Us
  2. Join
  3. Sign In


June 17, 2015

Just like the youth your programs serve, no two families are alike. Often we think of diversity just as race or ethnicity, but it has many other aspects (e.g., social class, geography, age, abilities). Acknowledging and better understanding differences can help build cultural competence and break down barriers to family engagement in your programs. 

Cultural Competence

What comes to mind when you think of culture? Many people compare culture to an iceberg because the surface aspects of people’s cultures, or parts that the world sees such as style of dress and types of food, make up only a small part of the whole culture. Most people’s ideas of who they are and their culture come from much deeper aspects of self, such as religious beliefs, family ties and ideas about friendship.

During a recent Family Engagement and cultural competence training activity, participants reflected on what they believed were their surface aspects of culture and what they believed were deeper aspects. After, participants shared with partners, and a few commented that this activity helped them realize how often we make assumptions about families and don’t ever get to know them on a deeper level. When we understand families on a deeper level, we will better understand the students we serve and increase our ability to engage them and their families in our programs.

Family Engagement

There are many strategies you can use to make culturally diverse families feel more welcome and involved in your programs, and to overcome the challenges to family engagement. Consider using an Understanding Families Program questionnaire at the beginning of the year to start building communication. This will help families share information and see themselves as resources for the program. Be proactive in building relationships with families through parent newsletters, good news postcards or other ideas from the Reaching Out to Families tool. Plan intentional and personalized next steps with the Knowing Families and Cultures tool to consider a variety of methods for involving families.

Additional Resources

Our approach to understanding and connecting to each family and understanding their culture must be personalized and based on research. Help your staff actively recognize their individual cultural lenses and/or biases and learn how to be respectful of families and children by engaging in cultural competence scenarios.  Also check out the Family Engagement Resource Providers webinars for effective tips, strategies and activities to support family engagement efforts.

For more web-based resources to improve family engagement into your program, visit Y4Y’s Family Engagement Learn More Library

Also, please be sure to check out the Family Engagement plenary panel discussion and many breakout sessions that will occur at the Summer Institute in Dallas, Texas. More details will come soon, so stay tuned for announcements from our partner federal contractors.

April 24, 2015

Earlier this month, Y4Y hosted a panel discussion and webinar on building an advisory board and collaborating with your parents and community members to support students and activities. Follow the link to hear the panelists’ authentic and practical approaches for establishing and maintaining strong advisory boards. 


What happens when you truly collaborate with families and communities? According to our Y4Y panelists, you will gain access to the voices and talents of your community. You will find ways to enhance your program — directly, through alternate and additional funding sources, and indirectly through empowering parents and building their capacity. For more about how to develop such win-win relationships, see The Dual Capacity-Building Framework for Family-School Partnerships.


Whether you have established an advisory board or intend to do so, Y4Y offers some great tools to help you get going and keep track of what you’re doing. Here are short descriptions and quick links to those tools.

Communication and Collaboration Checklist
Although this tool focuses on fostering good relationships between your program and the schools your students attend, it can easily be customized to include connecting with families and community members. It also helps you think about your short-term and long-term goals and action steps. 

Identifying Partners
Here’s a tool to help you identify your community resources and think about potential members for your parent-community advisory board. After you establish a board, continue to conduct a community inventory every two or three years so you don’t miss any important connections. 

Volunteer Job Description
Before you invite people to join your parent-community advisory board, we recommend preparing a volunteer job description. Get this template in the Y4Y portal, and customize it to fit the specifics of your advisory board. 

Volunteer Skills Grid
As you connect with people who express interest in becoming board members, ask them to complete this simple form to share their skills, interests and available time. Just delete the examples from the grid before distributing to members to fill out.

August 21, 2014

The Y4Y team’s most recent trip was to Macon, Georgia, for a session on Family Involvement with some creative Georgia practitioners. When discussing family involvement ideas that programs could implement within the next 1-2 months, Jenny from Towns County, Georgia, shared the idea of a grocery store scavenger hunt that students could do with their families outside of program hours.

Here’s how it works: a staff member scopes out the local grocery store in advance, writes clues that incorporate items in the store, and then sends the scavenger hunt home with students. Students only have to identify the items in question – they do not have to purchase them. Depending on the program’s focus, staff can incorporate literacy, math, and even nutrition into the clues.

Thanks to Jenny and the rest of the Georgia 21st CCLC participants for sharing all of their great ideas!

June 17, 2014

Miss any of our great webinars recently? Don’t worry, Y4Y is designed with the busy afterschool professional in mind! We know there are only so many hours in the day, that’s why we record all of our webinars so you can access them on demand.

You can find them all in the Y4Y Webinar Archive. You can also catch up on all the great webinars produced by the Family Engagement team over the past few months by accessing their YouTube Channel.


May 12, 2014

There’s another free webinar on Tuesday, May 20, from 2:00-3:30 p.m. Eastern (11:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Pacific) on Engaging Families of Children with Disabilities.

Family engagement and disability experts, Debra Jennings, Director of the Center on Parent Information and Resources and Jane Sharp, out-of-school time (OST) consultant, will discuss strategies that programs are implementing to engage families of youth with disabilities and family resources available in each state.

This webinar will offer:

- Effective Strategies
- Useful Resources
- On-the-Ground Experiences
- Opportunity for Discussion

Register for this free webinar today.

[Ed. note: a recording of this webinar is available on YouTube.]

[The “Engaging Families of Children with Disabilities” webinar is hosted by Manhattan Strategy Group for the Family Engagement Resource Providers (FERP) project. Funding is provided by the U.S. Department of Education under contract number ED-ESE-12-C-0070.]