January 31, 2023

Family Networking Opportunities for Culturally Responsive Engagement

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Families that engage with each other and the school community are more confident understanding and advocating for their child’s academic, social, and emotional needs. The goal of family engagement efforts is to make families feel welcome and valued as respected partners in their community and child’s educational life.  

You can achieve this goal by providing families with more opportunities to connect with each other. 

When implementing family networking strategies, remember to center the following two questions. It’s important to revisit these questions before, during, and after implementation.  

Question 1: Is it asset-based? 

Many families feel uncomfortable showcasing their knowledge, expertise, and desires for the school community when meeting with staff.  Schools can unintentionally reinforce apprehension when family engagement efforts are developed from the lens of needing to “fix” a problem in the community. The fix-it mindset can lead schools to engage in ways that do not resonate with families.  

Avoid this mistake by taking an asset-based and collaborative approach: Get curious about the strengths, histories, and values of your school community. Create spaces where families can share and learn about each other. Once we acknowledge families as important experts in these areas, fostering networks between families becomes an urgent priority to improve outcomes for students.  

Use this Identity Mapping Tool to get started.

Question 2: Is it sustainable? 

A good idea that is not well-executed or maintained can turn into a negative experience. When planning family engagement activities, remember to acknowledge and communicate your capacity and limitations with your team. As you engage more families and staff in your efforts, the work will be more streamlined and meaningful.  

Use this SMARTIE Goals Worksheet to help with sustainable planning. 

We offer strategies and activities to help families network!  

Next week we’ll share our first activity to facilitate family networking: a Conference-Style Learning Event. Healthier Generation staff are available to assist you in using our 6-Step Process to grow your family engagement efforts. Check out our suite of Family Engagement resources and learn from some of America’s Healthiest Schools who have been recognized for strengthening the partnership between families and educators. 

Stay inspired by new ideas and learn from our catalogue of success stories, tips, and evidenced-based trainings for school staff from Kohl’s Healthy at Home

- By Alexis Lassus, National Advisor, Whole Child Health and Kohleun Adamson, Manager, Culturally Responsive Communications