Building Meaningful Partnerships with Families
Day Early Learning centers expand family engagement efforts
At our Day Early Learning Centers, teachers and staff know that parents are much more than customers. They are the most essential partners that we have in the early learning experience. Families serve as children’s first and most important teachers and their lifelong educational advocates. Knowing this, Early Learning Indiana’s board and staff identified family engagement as a key focus area in our strategic plan.
Thanks to a grant from the Lilly Endowment, we are deepening our family engagement efforts through several high-impact practices in our centers. Our goals are to build meaningful partnerships with families, empower them to be advocates for their children, and create opportunities for families to have a significant voice at our centers.
Read more below about the new services we’ve added and the exciting opportunities for families!
Family Connect Conferences were implemented in early 2017 and are based on home visits, an early childhood family support practice. Through this effort, families meet one-on-one with one of our trained staff, Family Connect Partners, who are teachers within our Day Early Learning centers.
Tailored to meet the interests and concerns of each family, each conference can cover topics such as preparing for and enrolling in kindergarten, helping your child make the leap into preschool – understanding classroom expectations and developing social skills, transitioning to toddlerhood – potty training and beyond, and more. Conferences strengthen our partnership with families, providing resources and support to them as their children transition through our centers and into kindergarten.
“It was very helpful to speak with our Family Connect Partner. She was able to give me great advice on how to emotionally prepare my son for kindergarten and also gave me practical information on what would be needed for registration. As my son’s teacher, she was able to give me her perspective on how my son learns, what his strengths are and what would be good information about him to give to his kindergarten teacher.” – Day Early Learning Pre-K Parent
Parent Cafes launched in a few Day Early Learning centers in late 2017. Using the Be Strong Families model, Parent Cafes engage parents in peer-to-peer conversations about the challenges of parenting, allow parents to share ideas and gain knowledge, and provide them with the opportunity to build friendships and a supportive community. Hosted by a trained facilitator from our partner organization Families First, topics have included positive adult and child emotional management and forging positive relationships within our communities.
Day Early Learning hosted its first Kindergarten Fair in November 2017. The fair supported our pre-K families as they selected and applied to local kindergarten programs. Ten community schools and organizations attended and answered parents’ questions about their schools. We also had our Family Connect Partners and Enroll Indy representatives on hand to walk families through the kindergarten application process.
In 2017, Day Early Learning families crafted and submitted proposals for family engagement projects, leveraging funds from the Lilly Endowment grant. Some diverse and creative projects included a parent group coffee meet-up, cupcakes and canvas activity for families, and class field trips to local museums with parents.
Our Day Early Learning family engagement specialist and team continue to grow their knowledge of best practices in family engagement. In 2017, they were able to attend seven national conferences, as well as share their lessons learned by presenting at four local conferences.
The Day Early Learning family engagement team plans to build upon their efforts to support families in 2018. Stay tuned for more opportunities for families!