Experts Discuss Family Engagement

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On Tuesday, Senior Advisor for Early Learning Jacqueline Jones (ED) and Deputy Assistant Secretary and Inter-Departmental Liaison for Early Childhood Development Joan Lombardi (HHS) hosted a panel of experts in Orlando to discuss challenges and policy recommendations for family engagement in early learning programs. This was the third stop on the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services’ Listening and Learning About Early Learning tour.

Dr. Heather Weiss, Founder and Director of the Harvard Family Research Project (HFRP), highlighted the unique opportunity that currently exists with two federal agencies focused on the importance of family engagement. Dr. Weiss argued that family engagement is much more than parental involvement; it is a shared responsibility between schools/programs, communities, and families. She called for developing family engagement approaches that are systematic, sustained and integrated.

President of the National Black Child Development Institute Carol Brunson Day discussed the importance of culturally specific and culturally sensitive family engagement strategies to reach families from diverse backgrounds. Dr. Day noted that it is critical to ensure that the early learning workforce is diverse and represents the population of children and families served. She also discussed the need for an evaluation strategy, so that programs know whether or not their family engagement approaches are working.

Dr. Eugene Garcia, Vice President for Education Partnerships at Arizona State University, discussed family engagement approaches for Latino and immigrant families. Dr. Garcia outlined successful parent involvement strategies for immigrant families, and he provided an overview of specific successful Latino family engagement programs in communities across the country.

Distinguished Fellow at RTI International Don Bailey concluded the panel’s remarks with a discussion of family engagement for families who have children with disabilities or special needs. Dr. Bailey argued that family-centered principles and approaches can support families in successfully adapting to having a child with special need. He recommended supporting the development and evaluation of professional development to improve the early learning workforce’s capacity for engaging and supporting families.

Panelists agreed that family engagement includes both formal and informal approaches and should reflect local communities. Family engagement is one of several key components to improving early learning programs.

Slide presentations and public speaker comments will be posted at

One more meeting is planned:

  • Standards and Assessments: Tuesday, May 11, 2010, 10:00 am to 3:30 pm, at the Polk Bros. Lecture Hall at the Erikson Institute, 451 N. LaSalle Street, Chicago, IL
    Samuel J. Meisels, President of the Erikson Institute
    Kathy Hebbeler, Manager of the Community Services and Strategies Program at SRI International and Director of the Early Childhood Outcomes Center
    Linda Espinosa, Associate Professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia
    Catherine Scott-Little, Associate Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at the School of Human and Environmental Sciences, University of North Carolina at Greensboro

  • Registration: To attend or speak at a meeting, you must register at×91942aeb2&varPage=agenda at least 4 business days prior to each meeting you plan to attend. Seating and speaker slots are limited, so registering early is important. On-site registration will be permitted if space allows.

Please go to for complete information on registration, webinar attendance, submission of written comments, and special accommodations and assistance to
individuals with disabilities.

See you in Chicago!

Jennifer Tschantz
Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services