December 7, 2017 | by April Dodge-Ostendorf
Parent Panelists at the Leadership Institute (l-r): Priscilla Purnell, Nhi Tran, Sheena Caldwell, Tara Zahner, and Sosha Chaney
Children and their families are the heart of early care and education. We know that when child care providers and early educators work in close concert with families.
- Young children gain a stronger foundation for learning and development,
- Overall family well-being is enhanced, and
- The early care workforce experiences greater job satisfaction, and frequent turnover is less likely.
Early care and education professionals have a critical role to play in fostering an a system rich in family engagement practices and principles. This year’s Child Care Aware® of America Leadership Institute, Growing Momentum toward Breakthrough Solutions, provided fertile ground for child care resource and referral leaders to consider important issues like emergency preparedness, public policy, and professional development with themes of family engagement braided throughout.
Developing Family Engagement Solutions for Vulnerable Families
The Leadership Institute kicked off with a poverty simulation conducted by Community Action Agency of Greater Kansas City, which brought the context in which families live their lives to the forefront of participant’s minds. Participants were immersed in the challenges families face when balancing the needs of their children and household, while also navigating a complicated and often fragmented system of supportive services. The experience primed child care resource and referral leaders to approach early care and education challenges with strategies that are mindful and equitable to vulnerable communities.
Seeking Solutions through Family Voices
Who better to incite breakthrough child care solutions than a vibrant panel of parents using their personal experiences and diverse backgrounds to illuminate key tenants of family engagement? Families joined the Leadership Institute to share their firsthand experiences with child care challenges, triumphs, and the important lessons they’ve learned. Parent panelists drove home how opportunities to share their voice can help leaders, at all levels of the early care system, identify what works, prioritize the changes needed, and develop innovative strategies that will advance a quality child care system that’s safe, affordable, accessible for all families.
Families are Key to Growing Momentum
Leaders in early care and education can continue to advance their programs and the overall system by renewing their commitment to family partnerships and engagement. Child Care Aware® of America invites you to continue growing momentum toward breakthrough solutions by:
- Finding inspiration in the families you serve. Lift up family voices, and tune into opportunities to incorporate their input on key programmatic and policy decisions.
- Creating partnership opportunities. Identify where you can integrate more family engagement values into your programs and practices. Are there opportunities to foster cultural and linguistic responsiveness, equity, inclusion, and goal-oriented relationships?
- Elevating families as leaders. Consider ways to position families as advocates, advisors, and mentors within early care and education programs.