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Family Partnerships and Engagement in Early Childhood Systems

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Definition: Building relationships with and among families that support children’s development, family well-being, and positive parent-child interactions. Families are engaged in meaningful and culturally respectful ways and have opportunities to influence programs, practices, policies, and systems for young children.


  • Involve families in planning and implementation of system activities to ensure they are linguistically and culturally responsive and supportive
  • Adapt outreach, recruitment, and retention strategies to connect with families who are currently underserved
  • Develop materials to inform parents about child development and the continuum of services that can support young children and their families
  • Provide opportunities for parent leadership development and involvement in community mobilization and advocacy activities
  • Integrate a strengths-based and trauma-informed approach to working with families into policies and processes

West Virginia

West Virginia surveyed parents of children under 3 years old and home visiting staff on how families are being supported and shared the results with home visiting programs, trainedohome visitors and other early childhood professionals on Strengthening Families, promoted parent support groups and play groups as entry points to home visiting, and revised Part C intake and family assessment processes to integrate family strengthening approaches.

  • West Virginia partnered with Montana State University to promote positive community norms. Surveys found that families and professionals did not view home visiting as being for all families. They shared these results, developed a recruitment guide for referral sources, and used social media to engage families.
  • ECCS funds supported Strengthening Families training as well as mini-grants for community-based projects providing formal and informal supports for families.
  • Part C developed a welcome card for families referred to the program and worked to make families aware of procedural safeguards in a family-friendly way.
  • West Virginia is providing training and resources to home visitors to make sure initial conversations with families are strengths-based and are focusing on hiring staff with a passion for serving families.


Texas solicited input from fathers on how to better engage them in home visiting programs and held a Fatherhood Summit.

  • In 2014, the Texas MIECHV (Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting) program partnered with the Child and Family Research Partnership at the University of Texas at Austin to conduct focus groups with fathers and write a report with recommendations for bolstering father engagement.
  • In 2016, the two organizations partnered again to host the Texas Fatherhood Summit. The Partnership developed a review of fatherhood research in preparation for the Summit. It brought together researchers, policymakers, and practitioners to discuss the state of fatherhood programs throughout the country.

Choctaw Nation, Pueblo of San Felipe, and Cherokee Nation

Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Pueblo of San Felipe, and Cherokee Nation have created family-friendly materials that provide an overview of all available programs and services in the community.

  • Types of materials for families include resource manuals (Choctaw), brochures (Cherokee Nation), and a “child passport system” with health service information (San Felipe).


Massachusetts’ Welcome Family program provides a universal one-time nurse home visit to any mother giving birth in six pilot communities, with screening and referrals to both formal services and informal supports.

  • Welcome Family started in September 2013 in 2 communities, expanded gradually, and hopes to be replicated statewide.
  • Any mother giving birth is eligible, with no eligibility criteria.
  • Nurses visit up to 8 weeks postpartum, do screening, and refer to formal services and informal supports.
  • The program is funded by MIECHV currently but the state is working on reimbursement by Medicaid and private insurers.
  • Massachusetts is conducting an evaluation of the pilot for potential replication throughout the state.


Iowa’s Parentivity is a web-based community that provides parents with personalized resources and access to experts and parents with similar concerns.

  • Parentivity is funded by MIECHV as a public-private partnership.
  • This is a virtual home visiting system targeted to parents who do not qualify for in-home visits.
  • Parentivity includes interactive learning, videos, games and quizzes, live chats, and webinars.
  • Parents are encouraged to make personalized action plans and are helped to track progress.

Cherokee Nation

Cherokee Nation has developed parent- and caregiver-driven action teams that seek to improve, coordinate, and collaborate with child-serving systems, such as schools and clinics.

  • This work was undertaken through the HERO (Helping Everyone Reach Out) Project.
  • The action teams develop their own identity and provide guidance on the development and implementation of evidenced-based interventions for the project.


Wisconsin developed an issue brief for home visitors on asking sensitive questions and a series of tip sheets on various screening and assessment tools used with families. They are also investing in parent leadership training with in-person and mentoring components.

  • Wisconsin added a question at the end of the adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) screening tool to ask parents how difficult it was to answer the questions. Home visiting staff was surprised that most parents said it was not difficult. Learning this made them less hesitant to talk about ACEs with parents.

If you have corrections, additions, or questions about the information in this framework contact policycenter@zerotothree.org.


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