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Engaging Partners

More Resources for Engaging Families

Engaging Parents, Developing Leaders

This self-assessment and planning tool was designed for nonprofits and schools by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.


Building, Engaging, and Supporting Family and Parental Involvement in Out-of-School Time Programs

This 2007 Child Trends brief summarizes research in family engagement.


Family Strengthening in Youth Development

This policy brief from the National Human Services Assembly discusses how programs and other youth development strategies can engage parents. It includes case studies and recommendations.


Harvard Family Research Project (HFRP)

HFRP offers many family involvement resources, as well as many other resources to strengthen family, school, and community partnerships.


Engaging Families

Engaging parents/families/caregivers in community activism may be difficult to do but may be very beneficial for youth development coalitions and programs.

Why Connect with Family Members/Caregivers?

Families/Caregivers are already connected to youth. Young people learn from and listen to their families/caregivers.

Families/Caregivers have influence and authority. Young people view their parents/families/caregivers as role models. Families can encourage young people to become involved in youth programs, community collaborations, or youth development initiatives.

Interests in common. Positive youth development initiatives share certain goals and values with families:

  • Positive outcomes. Families and youth development initiatives both seek to develop the competencies, values, and connections young people need for success in life and work.
  • High expectations. Families and youth development initiatives want young people to set and achieve significant goals, and they believe that community institutions should work with youth to enable them to achieve these goals.
  • Long-term commitment. Families and youth development initiatives both seek to provide the ongoing, developmentally appropriate support young people need throughout their lives.

Talking Points for Engaging Families/Caregivers

While these talking points may help you to engage families, be sure also to listen to the perspectives and interests of the people you are trying to reach.

Describe Who You Are Succinctly

"Our initiative brings local organizations together to make our community a great place to grow up. Through our initiative, adults and youth take action together to create a community that values young people and builds the skills they need to lead positive, healthy lives."

What's in it for Families?

Make sure there is something to be gained by families/caregivers to make joining youth programs or coalitions worth their time and effort. Documented benefits include improvements in child-parent communication and academic performance, and reductions in teens' risky behaviors [1]. Other appeals to families include:

Making a difference. "Young people look to the adults in their lives for an example of how to be an adult, how to be involved in the world around them, and how to be an example themselves."

Social connections. "We're going to make this fun! You'll meet other parents and community members who share the same desire to make this community a place where young people succeed."

Building your resume. "We can offer you a chance to use and build your skills and talents, and to make connections that could help you in the future."

Connecting to resources. "Through this project, we will all be learning more about the resources available to youth and their families in our community."

Promising Practices for Including Families/Caregivers

Focus on Families!, a publication of United Way of Massachusetts Bay, Harvard Family Research Project, and Build the Out-of-School Time Network, offers the following family inclusion strategies [2]:
  • Support families. Focus on families'/caregivers' strengths and assets, including the contributions they can make to the program or coalition. At the same time, be considerate and tune into family needs and concerns. Regularly solicit and act on family feedback to improve the initiative's goals, direction, and action.
  • Communicate and build trusting relationships. Make sure that everyone is kept updated about meetings, new developments, and important information. Be there for families and take time to talk about their concerns and needs. Identify and provide families and caregivers with meaningful roles and leadership opportunities.
  • Hire and develop a family-focused staff. Assign culturally competent program staff or coalition members to reach out to families, and consider regularly taking time to build the cultural competence of all of your coalition members.
  • Link individuals and organizations. Act as a liaison between families and other community organizations. Support families to become advocates for themselves and their children.


[1]   Horowitz, B. A. & Bronte-Tinkew, J. (2007). Building, Engaging, and Supporting Family and Parental Involvement in Out-of-School Time Programs. Child Trends. (PDF: 77K)
[2]   Kakli, Z., Kreider, H., Little, P., Buck, T., & Coffey, M. (2006). Focus on Families! How to Build and Support Family-Centered Practices in After School. Harvard Family Research Project and Build the Out-of-School Time Network.
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