Families are a child’s first and most important teachers, and family engagement is a critical component of high-quality early learning at both the program and system level.
Strong family engagement practices at the programmatic level can support the healthy development of young children, while at the same time linking families to resources and services designed to help them build, connect with, and lead support networks in their home communities, increase their understanding of child development and enhance their own economic security and health.
Parents and caregivers have the clearest perspective of what their families need from their own lived experiences. Start Early believes in centering and amplifying family voice and lived experience at decision-making tables. We believe there is power in pairing expertise from families’ lived experiences with rigorous research methods in ways that help maximize and scale the impact of community-driven solutions and programs.
Start Early advocates for increasing funding and support to early childhood programs to partner and build relational trust with families, amplify family voices and build families’ social capital and connections in their communities. This includes:
- Advancing family-friendly work policies, such as paid family leave, that promote families as a child’s first and most important teacher and create opportunities for parents and caregivers to bond with and care for their children without jeopardizing their ability to afford basic needs.
- Incentivizing investment at all levels — federal, state, community and program — to center and embed family voice in decision making. We champion building and strengthening ongoing structures that embed bi-directional communication among families engaged in the early childhood system with providers, advocates and system leaders.
- Increasing investment in two-generation approaches that build family well-being by intentionally and simultaneously working with children and the adults in their lives together.
- Supporting programs in increasing their capacity to undertake meaningful family engagement. This includes protecting and increasing funding for dedicated family support staff in early learning programs.
For detailed community, state and federal recommendations, see our full Policy Agenda.