January 31, 2023

Family Networking Opportunities for Culturally Responsive Engagement

English | español

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!  

Explore the blog series on family networking strategies. Each post in the series covers practical ways that your school staff can help students’ families connect with each other and support student success. Click the links below to read each post, available in English and Spanish: 

Assess and celebrate your family and community engagement success 

Providing networking opportunities for families, parents, and caregivers is an evidence-informed family and community engagement practice in the Thriving Schools Integrated Assessment

These practices are part of the award criteria in the Increasing Family & Community Engagement topic in America's Healthiest Schools Award application. Apply now!  

Access more free resources, tools, and trainings in the Healthier Generation Action Center and KohlsHealthyAtHome.org. Need support? Visit our Get Help page, call (888) 543-4584, or e-mail help@healthiergeneration.org.  

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