September 21, 2017
You’ve worked hard to make your 21st CCLC program feel like a second home to children and youth. So how do you ensure that their families feel the same way? Try the three R’s of family engagement: Be a resource, be a refuge and help families refuel!
These tips and the linked tools can help you put family-friendly practices in place right away. Also be sure to visit the Y4Y Family Engagement course!
Be a Resource
- Assess family needs. When family members pick up students, ask them to complete a brief survey or have a brief conversation to learn about areas where they need help.
- With your program team, map community assets. Find agencies and organizations that target unmet needs.
- Set up a family information center. Offer brochures and application forms for free or low-cost services, such as food pantries, housing support and children’s health insurance. Put information and forms where family members will see them when they pick up their children.
- Hold an evening or weekend information fair. Invite students’ families and people from the service agencies and organizations to come learn about one another. Be prepared to help family members complete applications or schedule appointments.
- Start by welcoming families, learning their names, using translators if they speak a language other than English, and doing other things to build trust.
- Help families learn about the school system. Families want their children to do well in school, but cultural or personal factors may make them reluctant to approach school personnel. Help families understand education jargon, how the school system works and how to get help for challenges their children face.
- Make connections to the school day. You see family members several times a week, so you can show parents what students have done on their homework, and suggest ways family members can help continue the learning at home. Make an opportunity for a casual, friendly introduction to a school-day teacher or principal.
- Offer a safe space. Work with your facility manager or a local partner and local law enforcement to offer a community recreation space that adults can share with children.
- Nurture social and emotional connections. Hold regular (perhaps monthly) events such as coffee hours where families, program staff and school-day staff can get acquainted in a relaxed setting.
- Create opportunities for physical activity. Arrange for occasional yoga, dance or exercise classes that welcome all family members, including seniors and those with mobility issues.
- Feed the intellect. Tell families about free or low-cost adult education and job training programs in the community. Connect parents and students to workshops about college financial aid and testing.
- Recognize financial needs. Coordinate with schools and local employers to hold a job fair, so family members can learn about local work opportunities. Provide information about housing support, unemployment benefits and other programs that help to meet basic needs.
A Word About Respect
In all that you do, treat students and their families with dignity and respect. Take time to hear their voices, and to understand their strengths as well as their needs. Whenever possible, schedule program events at times that are convenient for families, and coordinate with school-day activities and community events. Respecting others never goes out of style. In fact, it might be considered the fourth R of family engagement — resource, refuge, refuel and respect