7: Building Trusting Collaborative Relationships with Families
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- Explain the importance of relationships between ECE program and families.
- Describe ways programs and teachers can facilitate trusting relationships with families.
- Differentiate parent involvement from family engagement.
- Defend the importance of recognizing families as having the primary role in children’s lives.
- Define ways for programs to empower families.
- Describe effective communication strategies.
“A growing body of research suggests that meaningful engagement of families in their children’s early learning supports school readiness and later academic success” (NAEYC 2009; Henrich and Gadaire 2008; Weiss, Caspe, and Lopez 2006). Programs and teachers who strive to build genuine partnerships with the parents, guardians, and other primary caregivers at home and encourage families to become active participants in their child’s early learning and development help families to become advocates for their children. “High levels of engagement often result from strong program–family partnerships that are co-constructed and characterized by trust, shared values, ongoing bidirectional communication, mutual respect, and attention to each party’s needs (Lopez, Kreider, and Caspe 2004; NAEYC 2009, 6).
In addition, early childhood education programs have learned that when they can effectively partner with families, young children benefit and families are more likely to maintain involvement with school settings across the years. By strengthening family engagement during the early years, particularly with families from diverse backgrounds, families that have children with disabilities or other special needs, and families with dual language learners, early childhood education (ECE) programs can help to reduce the achievement gap.
When programs strive to build trusting, open, and collaborative relationships with families and genuinely seek the family’s input to inform program planning, family members receive the message that they play a key role in their child’s development and learning. In efforts to establish strong links between home and the early care and education setting, programs and teachers focus on developing strategies for family collaboration and being responsive to each family’s home language.