In 2008, Maryland’s Early Childhood Advisory Council made family engagement a major goal of the state’s three-year action plan to improve school readiness and school success. Three years later, the state received a grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge, with which they were able to further solidify the goal of strengthening family engagement across the early childhood system in Maryland.
Since being awarded with the grant, the state has continued to make significant progress toward its family engagement goals. Early childhood educators, policymakers, service providers, and community advocates came together to form the Maryland Family Engagement Coalition in 2012. The group developed a family engagement framework for the state that was approved by the Maryland Early Childhood Advisory Council and State Board of Education the following year.
The framework outlines seven goals for family engagement:
- Family engagement initiatives should promote family well-being.
- Family engagement initiatives should promote positive parent-child relationships.
- Family engagement initiatives should support families as lifelong educators of their children.
- Family engagement initiatives should support the educational aspirations of parents and families.
- Family engagement initiatives should support families through the care and education transitions of early childhood.
- Family engagement initiatives should connect families to their peers and to the community.
- Family engagement initiatives should support the development of families as leaders and child advocates.
It also offers strategies programs and providers can use to meet the goals, organized into two categories: (a) foundational areas: program leadership and professional development; and (b) program impact areas: program environment, family partnerships, teaching and learning, and community partnerships.
With funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Maryland State Department of Education’s Division of Early Childhood and the Coalition developed the Early Childhood Family Engagement Framework Toolkit in 2016. The toolkit lays out the vision for engaging families with young children and provides tools for providers to move from family involvement to family engagement. The toolkit also outlines various scenarios and provides tips for providers to implement in their programs.
Also in 2016, a Communications and Technology Plan was presented to the Division of Early Childhood including five recommendations for the development of a statewide, coordinated communications system for family engagement. Included in the plan were the following recommendations:
- Develop a statewide family engagement communication system with the Maryland State Department of Education as the hub.
- Conduct additional research that is specific to the demand and use of technology among early childhood stakeholders in Maryland.
- Disseminate information and provide technical assistance on technological innovations to support stronger connections between providers and parents.
- Review, strengthen, and highlight state-level policies and guidance.
- Create tools to lead a national learning community on state early childhood family engagement initiatives.
Maryland continues to build on this important work with the development of the state’s new family engagement community hub website, Maryland Families Engage. Since emphasizing the need for comprehensive family engagement across early childhood services and systems, the state has taken steps to embed the framework into state systems by including family engagement indicators at all levels of its Quality Rating and Improvement System and initiating a series of Parent Cafes across the state.
Updated July 2019