Family engagement is one of the most important things you should master in your childcare centre if you want to build long-lasting relationships between families, communities and educators.
Not only does it help children and families, it also assists your service with word-of-mouth and compliance to the relevant frameworks and standards.
What Is Family Engagement?
Engaging a family means forming a partnership to empower them to contribute to the goings-on of the service.
This includes involving families in service decisions, and collaborating to build things like programs. If this is done consistently and correctly, it manifests into building long-lasting relationships & a community that contributes to learning.
Why Is Family Engagement Important?
Family engagement helps parents and caregivers contribute to learning, which has been proven to improve educational outcomes for children. It also builds a lasting, healthy relationship with education that can help them beyond the early years.
If you need any more proof that family engagement is important for a childcare centre, just look at the relevant frameworks and standards within the sector.
The Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) states that: "Children thrive when they,
their families and their educators work together in partnership to support their learning, development and wellbeing."
My Time, Our Place (MTOP) also notes something similar: "Children and young people thrive when families, approved providers, educators, teachers in schools, other professionals and the wider community work together in partnership to support children and young people's wellbeing, learning and development."
Whilst the National Quality Standards (NQS) requires services to meet Element 6.1.1 by focusing on Engagement with the Service. This is described as a service where "Families are supported from enrolment to be involved in the service and contribute to service decisions."
How To Improve Family Engagement
Now that we know what family engagement is, and why it matters so much in education and care, let's look at some of the things you can do in your centre to improve the way you collaborate with parents and caregivers.
1. Hold In-Person Events to Get Families & Educators Together
Getting families together can help build relationships across the service, especially between educators and parents. If there are any concerns, conversations or information that need to be shared, we generally only have pick-up and drop-off times which can be hectic.
By holding regular events, you can give families more opportunities to talk to staff, and in a much more relaxed environment. Instead of communicating during a busy or stressful time where our words may not be construed in the right way, we can engage with families in a calm, relaxing and positive environment.
Event Ideas: BBQs, Easter Egg Hunts, Parties (Christmas, New Year etc.), Community Clean Up Days, Family Fun Day, Fundraising Events
2. Share Learning & Parenting Resources (inc. webinars, books etc.)
Nobody has all of the answers when it comes to parenting. And whilst we don't want to tell people how to parent, we can share resources from multiple sources that could help families when they're at home.
Whether it's continuing learning outside of the service, or simple tips to help with mealtimes, sharing helpful resources can build relationships with families who get value from them, and can also contribute to better outcomes for children.
Building that relationship can act as a great foundation for future attempts to engage parents to contribute to the service.
Resources ideas: Library of Parenting Books, Online Resources, Sharing Webinars, Helpful Links on your Parent App.
OWNA Recommends | Parent TV
Parent TV is a hub of all things parenting, with courses and videos from experts like Maggie Dent & Justin Coulson.
They have packages for Childcare Centres which allows you to share resources directly with parents that you think may help them, and they also host regular webinars to help parents and educators.
You can learn more here.
3. Utilise a Communication App to Communicate with Parents
Again, chatting to parents at pick-up and drop-off times can be hectic. So why wait until then to tell them about their child's day? A communication app is essential for services now.
Photos, videos, routines, notes, forms, events and everything else can be shared with parents via an app like OWNA.
It doesn't even need to create more work! Parent posts double up as documentation. Excursion forms can be held in the same place as your other compliance documents like risk assessments. Payment advice is done in the same place as your CCS administration.
Turn your documentation into communication via the OWNA Childcare App.
4. Share Regular Surveys for Feedback from Families
Getting consistent feedback is imperative for improving your service's practices.
Surveys can be shared about learning spaces, programs, excursions, process and more. Once parents fill these out, you can reflect on your practices, ask parents for suggestions, and implement suggested changes.
These surveys can also be kept in the OWNA app for assessors to see how you're enabling families to contribute to service decisions (element 6.1.1).
5. Encourage Participation
You can have all of the tools, but it's up to you and your team to make sure that they get used.
When you host an event, promote it via social media, email, your website and your communication app (OWNA has an events diary specifically for this).
When you have resources to share, make sure they're shared regularly to those that need it, and follow up by asking 'was that resource helpful?'
Keep on top of parent communication, and make sure you're reflecting regularly on your feedback.
Parent engagement, involvement and communication is essential to any early learning service. Make it easier by adopting a communication app that is simple for educators and parents to work together.