Want to increase interest in your programs, get students more involved, and elevate your profile in the community you serve? Family engagement is fully integrated into a child's educational experience, supports the whole child, and is a key ingredient in the recipe for program success. These family engagement plan examples can help you build programs that capture the interest of children and their family members.
You already know family engagement is important, but implementing it correctly is another story. Family involvement is critical to success at all levels of education. Engaged parents are a vital part of a school or program family and can work to support what learners master in your program. Active parental participation reduces discipline issues, improves grades and health, and encourages youth to invest in their education and their future.
Kids thrive when they have a range of committed adults—parents, grandparents, families, caregivers, friends, and neighbors—showing up for them. In engaging with families and communities, you have the power to transform children’s lives and build a better, more just world. This article is part of a six-part series, Building Better Programs. Explore the rest of this series.
What is a family engagement plan?
Good programs naturally engage parents, caregivers, and communities and should be a part of your program planning from day one.
A family engagement plan is exactly what it sounds like: a foundation for the collaboration of families, programs, schools, and communities to build relationships that support student learning and achievement, family well-being, and the continuous learning and development of all involved.
Ultimately, family engagement can make your work easier. More invested parents and caregivers can reinforce program material at home and help get kids excited for upcoming program plans. In turn, communities will be more aware of what you’re offering, which can mean more enrollment and fewer marketing expenses. And ultimately, you’ll equip students for a brighter tomorrow, which is, of course, the ultimate aim of every great youth program.
Shoot for the stars with your family engagement plan.
You’re already doing amazing things with the kids you serve. Bringing in more family engagement takes your great work to the next level. Good family engagement plans are ambitious, but they draw on clear evidence. Start with small goals, then set your sights on greater achievements based on results.
Here’s your quick-start strategy for writing a family engagement plan you can feel excited about:
- Facilitate family-to-family support by ensuring there are opportunities for continuous participation in events designed for families, in a safe and respectful environment where they can learn from each other.
- Develop staff skills in practices that support families in working with their children, and support your programs' family engagement plan. Use professional development coursework in addition to live meetings and trainings to educate staff on family engagement expectations in your program, and assign a few activities to help get them started.
- Develop measures of engagement and strategies for incentivizing and promoting them. Engagement comes in many forms: visiting your website, calling to ask about enrollment, showing up to events, supporting students at home, and so much more. Where are you most interested in focusing your efforts?
- Evaluate the strategy at regular intervals, and ensure benchmarks for engagement are measurable, objective, and specific. Amorphous goals such as “Get families more involved” make it impossible to assess how successful you are. “Get 20 more parents to come to our showcase this month” is a much more useful goal.
Check out these fun family engagement plan example activities.
Family engagement should be fun! Prioritize the activities you can get most excited about planning. Your learners and the wider community will take their cues from you and your team, so make sure you select activities that feel like the right fit for your program.
The right family engagement plan examples vary depending on your program goals. But good activities share a few things in common:
- They have a clear purpose.
- They’re tailored to the needs and abilities of your participants.
- They include specific goals and measurable benchmarks for success.
Check out these awesome ideas to help get your wheels turning on the right activities for your program:
- Enrollment activities: Try planning a summer enrollment day that offers comprehensive support to educate the community and get kids signed up. Ensure you are promoting upcoming events and programs to current participants and their families. Then, schedule an open house during the program itself to get the community excited about next year’s offerings.
- Parent volunteers: Involving parents and caregivers directly in the program can gain buy-in and may widen your offerings. Recruit volunteers for specific roles. Or better yet, ask what talents they can share. You might end up with balloon art one day, a martial arts seminar the next, and a delightfully diverse menu of kid-friendly offerings you would never otherwise have access to.
- Family directory: Relationships outside of your program can help nurture stronger connections within the program. Ask parents and caregivers to participate in a family directory, so kids can enjoy playdates year-round.
- Family gatherings: Invite your families to meet at a local park or playground at intervals throughout the year. This keeps families and caregivers connected and can remind them to sign up again next year. Depending on your program type, consider hosting an evening art show, concert, parent/kid scrimmage, or another activity on-site to help kids showcase their hard work to their families.
- Family-friendly school events: Plan fun events that encourage caregiver, family, and community participation such as carnivals, talent shows, pet parades, and more. Anything fun or a little quirky can attract the right kind of attention.
- Parent-only events: Busy parents and caregivers need a break too. Consider planning a parent night with a raffle, talent show, live music, or other features to get them talking to one another and connected to your program. You may also be able to structure these events as fundraisers with donations from community members and businesses.
- An active online presence: Your blog, social media, and website are highly accessible sources of information, especially for busy parents and caregivers who can’t drop by the school or call during business hours. Keep a strong online presence, and make sure your calendar and events are accessible across social media channels.
- Family-friendly communication: Ask parents and caregivers about their preferred communication methods, then deliver automated messages via these channels. Be mindful of overwhelming your recipients. Contact them with only the most important, interesting information. If parents/caregivers drop off and pick up kids, seize those opportunities to promote key communications about field trip permission slips, show-and-tell, and more.
- School newsletter: Everyone loves seeing their name in print. Try featuring recent events, student achievements, and more in a student newsletter. You might even encourage students to submit editorials or artwork to make the newsletter more engaging to families and caregivers. Teachers should also consider sending a weekly newsletter to keep families involved and engaged.
- Use engagement apps: BellXcel’s family portal and family app encourage families and parents to invest in your program when it’s convenient for them to do so, driving more involvement and encouraging a culture of investment in your learners.
A little trial and error can be helpful. Not every plan will succeed, and that’s OK. Pay attention to which interventions have the greatest impact, make adjustments as necessary, then set your sights on making these activities even better next time.
Let BellXcel help.
BellXcel has supported programs to help learners achieve great things for decades. Research shows our program can boost parental involvement. Our family portal and family app both strengthen family engagement, empowering families to engage however they feel most comfortable. We know how to take your program from humdrum to out of this world. It all begins with a good plan and the right data. You’ve got this. We can help.