Head Start and Early Head Start Parent and Family Engagement

Head Start and Early Head Start offers parents opportunities and support for growth, so that they can identify their own strengths, needs and interests, and find their own solutions. The objective to engage families in partnerships is to support parents as they identify and meet their own goals, nurture the development of their children in the context of their family and culture, and advocate for communities that are supportive of children and families of all cultures. The building of trusting, collaborative relationships between parents and staff allows them to share with and to learn from one another.

As research suggests, parents and family members are more likely to become engaged in their young child's development and learning when they have positive and trusting relationships with those who support them.1 In Head Start and Early Head Start, these relationships focus on goals that families develop with the support of program leadership, staff, and engaged community partners. These goal-directed relationships are part of the two-generational approach of working with children and adult family members and distinguish Head Start and Early Head Start from other early childhood initiatives.

Families play a critical role in helping their children to prepare for school and a lifetime of academic success. Head Start programs are required to consult with parents in establishing school readiness goals. It matters when programs engage parents and families in their children's development and learning. In fact, research indicates that:

  • Children with supportive home learning environments show increased literacy development, better peer interactions, fewer behavior problems, and more motivation and persistence during learning activities.2
  • Among the youngest children, daily parent-child reading from infancy prompts cognitive skills as well as early vocabulary gains that lead to more reading and vocabulary growth3, a pattern of growth that has been compared to a snowball.
  • Continued family engagement is important through the school years. Longitudinal studies of low-income children show that high family involvement offsets the risks of children growing up in low-income households and in households with low parent education.4

The following link to the Head Start Parent, Family, and Community Engagement (PFCE) Framework is a roadmap for progress in achieving the types of outcomes that lead to positive and enduring change for children and families.

Link » eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc/standards/im/2011/pfce-framework.pdf

1 Bryk, A.S. & Schneider, B. (2003). Trust in schools: a core resource for school reform. Educational Leadership, 60(6). Lopez, M.E., Dorros, S., & Weiss, H. (1999). Family-centered child care. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Family Research Project. 2 Fantuzzo, J., McWayne, C., & Perry, M. (2004). Multiple dimensions of family involvement and their relations to behavioral and learning competencies for urban, low-income children. The School Psychology Review, 33(4), 467–480. Weiss, H., Caspe, M., Lopez, M. E. (2006). Family Involvement in Early Childhood Education. Family Involvement Makes a Difference. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Family Research Project. 3 Raikes, H., Luze, G., Brooks-Gunn, J., Raikes, H.A., Pan, B.A., Tamis-LeMonda, C.S., et al. (2006). Mother–child book reading in low-income families: Correlates and outcomes during the first three years of life. Child Development 77(4), 924–953. 4 Dearing, E., Kreider, H., Simpkins, S., & Weiss, H. B. (2006). Family involvement in school and low-income children's literacy performance: Longitudinal associations between and within families. Journal of Educational Psychology, 98, 653–664. Barnard, W.M. (2004). Parent involvement in elementary school and educational attainment. Children & Youth Services Review, 26(1), 39-62.