This year, Governor Cooper proclaimed November as Family Engagement Month. His recognition reminds us what we already know to be true—that families are children’s first and most important teachers, advocates, and nurturers. Parents and family members are also leaders with valuable skills, experiences, and wisdom to inform decision-making and lasting systems change. We’re grateful for this time of special recognition. We also know that lifting up and supporting family leadership and engagement is necessary every month of the year.
There are many helpful tools to promote family engagement and leadership at state and local-levels. Some tools—developed specifically by North Carolinians for use in North Carolina—are highlighted below.
NC Early Childhood Family Engagement and Leadership Framework
To support the early childhood system in planning for and embedding family engagement into programs and services, the NC Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE) and its partners officially released the NC Early Childhood Family Engagement and Leadership Framework earlier this month (also available in Spanish). The Framework was developed by a statewide coalition, including family leaders and other cross-sector stakeholders.
This Framework defines and identifies important family engagement concepts, upholding the definition of family engagement as “doing with—not for—families” and the vision that agencies and programs align strategies to intentionally engage and learn from the adults in a child’s life. A summary of the Framework is also available in English and Spanish.
Family Engagement Action Guide and Toolkit
A companion document, called the Family Engagement Action Guide & Toolkit, was also introduced in November by the NC Partnership for Children. It draws from the local-level family engagement and planning experiences of ten local Smart Start communities. It includes tools and strategies to increase family engagement and leadership in communities.
Building family engagement and leadership is an activity of NC’s Preschool Development Grant Birth through Five (PDG B-5), a competitive federal grant designed to support the healthy development of young children. The Framework and Toolkit were both developed with support from this grant. For more information on PDG B-5, see this press release and fact sheet.
Pathways Measures of Success and Action Frameworks
The NC Pathways to Grade-Level Reading (Pathways) initiative also prioritizes family engagement and leadership as a critical component of our state’s efforts to ensure every NC child is reading on grade-level by the end of third grade. Pathways co-created two Frameworks in collaboration with hundreds of North Carolinians to help guide action in these areas.
The Pathways Measures of Success Framework includes more than 60 data indicators that have been tied in research to grade-level reading, including some measures of family engagement in their children’s early learning and development. Visit our Pathways Data Dashboard to learn more about these measures and what data are currently available and not available in NC. Pathways recognizes North Carolina’s need for more culturally responsive measures and state-level data for family engagement and leadership.
The Pathways Action Framework includes more than 40 Action areas prioritized by hundreds of cross-sector stakeholders involved in Pathways. The Actions represent areas that Pathways partners recommended our state should work on first to move the needle on grade-level reading, especially for children of color.
When developing the Action Framework, Pathways incorporated input from hundreds of NC families gathered via existing parent survey and focus group data collected by leaders across the state. The data was compiled by NCECF in our Not About Me Without Me Report. Some family leaders also participated in our Pathways Design Teams.
The Action Framework includes a specific Expectation that all NC child and family systems are family-driven and equitable (See pages 31-32 of the Framework for more information). Prioritized Actions to support this Expectation include:
- Supporting families in advocating for their children
- Requiring linked strategies across programs to engage and learn from families
- Being inclusive in planning and designing services
- Setting equity goals
- Ensuring assessments instruments are culturally and linguistically relevant
The NC Early Childhood Foundation is working to spotlight innovative efforts that are impacting these areas in a new online tool called the Pathways Action Map. We’d love to learn more about what you’re doing to address the Actions listed above and ensure NC systems are more family-driven and equitable. Please contact us.