Family and Community engagement have always been cornerstones of Head Start. This component builds relationships that support family well-being, as well as strong relationships between parents and their children. This area also promotes ongoing learning and development for both parents and children.
When parent and family engagement activities are systematic and integrated across the program foundations and program impact areas, family engagement outcomes are achieved. This results in children who are healthy and ready for school. Parent and family engagement activities are grounded in positive, ongoing, and goal-oriented relationships with families.
A team of Head Start staff works with the family, from the beginning process of setting goals to making policy and program decisions. Head Start also actively collaborates with community agencies and organizations to establish a network of support that families can utilize during and after Head Start.
Parents and family members work in partnership with Head Start staff to set goals for their children and family development. An individualized plan is designed to assist them in achieving family goals. Parents are encouraged to share ideas and opinions, to visit the programs and to participate in Parent Committee and other group activities. Parents also attend classes and workshops to learn about parenting, nutrition, safety practices, job preparation, skill development and other topics.
The Head Start program takes an active role in its communities and collaborates with other organizations to enable Head Start children and families to receive services that are beyond the scope of Head Start. Head Start community partners include physical and mental health providers, agencies that provide services to children with disabilities, child protective services, child care organizations, local schools, businesses and other s ervice groups.
In-kind contributions from parents, volunteers and local providers are an important component of Head Start. This donation of time provides the opportunity for volunteering through reading to children and donating books, school supplies and other services.
Parental involvement in children's lives is not an exclusively female domain. The notion that fathers of children from low-income and high-risk backgrounds always absent themselves from child rearing is erroneous.
Head Start and Early Head Start have a long history of focusing on fathers and father figures as important contributors to the school readiness of children and the well-being of families. Male engagement is not a stand-alone initiative, but rather a vital and integrated aspect of parent, family and community engagement efforts in Head Start and Early Head Start.
Head Start's Fatherhood Initiative promotes concepts and activities that nurture the children's relationships with their fathers.
The Fatherhood Initiative supports and strengthens the roles of fathers in families. This initiative is guided by the following principles:
All fathers can be important contributors to the well-being of their children.
Parents are partners in raising their children, even when they do not live in the same household.
The roles fathers play in families are diverse and crucial to the positive development of children.