Conclusion

Connecting with families and communities is critical to the success of the participants we serve. This toolkit offers providers the tools and resources to think critically about existing practices that build support, confidence, and trust with the families of participants. The three key areas of family engagement – communication, participation, and partnership – will help guide you as you identify new mechanisms to improve existing family partnerships and create new ones.

Focus on building and sustaining positive connections with families. As you develop intentional and focused family engagement practices to enhance communication, participation, and partnership with all stakeholders think carefully about recommendations you have received from participants and families themselves. Ensure your communication strategies are direct and helpful. Meet families where they are. Explore communication channels that families currently use such as social media, texting, newsletters, email, etc.

Continuously measure participation and the involvement of families. Families will be more inclined to attend meetings, activities, and engage in daily activities with their families when they are comfortable with the program staff, have trusting relationships, and feel respected and welcome. Ask families for feedback and include them in the planning and coordination of activities. Develop systems to continuously assess participation through simple attendance data and observations. Measure which activities are most engaging for families and which are the most disengaging.

Strategize the way you message priorities. Emphasize that families are not simply seen as recipients of services, but that they are valued partners and decision makers who have a significant role in creating a program vision and guiding its implementation. Lead with influence by motivating families through authentic bonds.

Be a nurturing leader of the “Circles of Support.” Develop a culture of collaboration and care. Families are at the center of the lives of your program participants. Be respectful, stay positive, and work toward embedding family engagement strategies and practices into the infrastructure of your program. Participants will see better outcomes when their network of supportive and caring adults and community collaboratively invest in their well-being.