This chapter aligns with SLO # 1: Current theories and ongoing research in early care and education and #4: explain the importance of developing culturally responsive partnerships with families.
It is likely that you have heard the saying “the family is a child’s first teacher”. This phrase carries with it our professional obligation to honor, value, and include the families with whom we work in early childhood education. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) states through the Power to the Profession work that “we need to be clear that recognizing families as the experts on their children and supporting them in their role as their children’s ‘first and most important’ teachers does not undermine the professional responsibilities of early childhood educators. Rather, it underscores the breadth and depth of professional knowledge early childhood educators need to carry out their formal responsibilities to fully support each child’s cognitive, social, and emotional, physical, and language and literacy development” (NAEYC, 2020).
Chapter 9 provides insight into family connections and how responsive and respectful relationships with families impact the child, family, teacher and ECE program. The content of the chapter is presented using a positive, strengths-based approach to support children as they grow, develop, and learn. Using a strengths-based approach centers our lens on looking for and identifying a family’s strengths as a starting point for our work in partnership with the family.
- Why connecting programs and staff with families is important in an early learning program
- How to engage and involve families in the program and classroom in meaningful ways
- Recognizing and reflecting on the barriers we face to building connections with families
- Identifying and sharing community resources for families
- Barriers: A barrier is an obstacle or obstruction. In education, barriers can be physical, technological, systemic, financial, or related to mental health and attitude.
- Community: A community, in simple terms, is a group of people living in a common geographical area or space. Community can also be a feeling or set of relationships between people based on common needs.
- Connecting/connection: Connecting with or building a connection with families is the ability of the teacher and school to communicate with and provide support to children and their families. This includes building and enhancing relationships.
- Culturally Responsive: Cultural responsiveness is “the ability to learn from and relate respectfully with people of your own culture as well as those from other cultures.” (National Center for Culturally Responsive Educational Systems, 2021). It is a research-based approach that makes connections between what children learn in school and their cultures, languages, and life experiences
- Equitable: Finding the “right fit” to offer what individual children and families need for successful relationships vs. equality which is giving each child and family the same thing.
- Family: A family is a main element of our society. A family is made up of people who care about each other. The family can be varied in structure, membership, and have a variety of different characteristics. Typically, all members of a family give and receive love and support from each other. Family, as referred to in Chapter 9, is important to both individuals and communities.
- Family Engagement: Family engagement is a process used to develop and sustain positive, goal-focused connections with families. A child’s adult caregiver (biological parent, foster parent, siblings, grandparents, other family member or guardian) is encouraged to work intentionally with the school to willingly create and implement goals and activities that aid in the child’s healthy development and learning.
- Family Involvement: In contrast to family engagement family involvement is more basic and less intentional. Family involvement is simply when a family accepts an invitation from the school or teacher to join in an activity usually at the school. There is no commitment, short-term or ongoing, for continuing to be involved in the child’s learning.
- Family Sensitive: Taking the child and family culture, language and background into consideration when developing expectations, goals and curriculum is family sensitive. An example is when a provider, school, or program intentionally solicits and integrates knowledge about the family, family culture, and family background, as they develop and implement the program expectations and curriculum.
- Mental Health: Mental health refers to a person’s state of psychological or emotional health.
- Multi-generational: Multigenerational families are those consisting of more than two generations living under the same roof.
- Physical Health: The health and overall functioning of your body.
- Power to the Profession (P2P): from NAEYC is a national collaboration that defines the early childhood education profession whose vision statement reads, “Each and every child, beginning at birth, has the opportunity to benefit from high-quality early childhood education, delivered by an effective, diverse, well-prepared, and well-compensated workforce.”
- Professional: In ECE the term professional is defined as someone who has the personal characteristics, knowledge, and skills necessary to provide quality programs that facilitate children's learning. An early childhood professional is someone who promotes high standards for themselves, someone who is continuously improving, and someone who can be an advocate and inform the public about child and family issues.
- Professionalism: The term professionalism refers to the skills and abilities expected of a professional and includes behaviors and attitudes shown by someone in the workplace.
- Racism: A belief that race is a fundamental determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race (https://www.merriam-webster.com )
- Reciprocal: Shared, felt, or shown by both sides. In a reciprocal relationship both individuals are engaged in a mutual give and take manner.
- Responsive: A research-based approach that focuses on making meaningful connections between what a child learns in school and what a child brings to the classroom including their family culture, language, and life experiences.
- Strengths-based: Helpful and encouraging mindsets, that support adults to see children and families in a more optimistic manner which allows for a strong foundation to build relationships and learning. Using a strengths-based approach begins with focus on a child’s (and family’s) positive attributes and seeing possibilities to build upon.
- Unintended consequence: The result or consequence of a purposeful behavior or action that is not intended, planned, or expected. Unintended consequences can result in a benefit, a disadvantage, or an opposite effect.