The focus on family engagement is important for educators to address the needs of children and provide complex services and care. Early Childhood Development Commission of Suffolk Department of Social Services was selected as the early childhood program the principles and activities of which are examined in this research.
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To collect the qualitative data required for the further analysis, the interview with Ms. O’Donnell was conducted, and the responses provided to six main questions were analyzed in the context of the problem of the family engagement, ideas presented in the current literature, and the personal philosophy of the researcher. The purpose of this paper is to analyze the themes identified in the responses to the interview questions, connect the findings to the literature in the field, and evaluate the analysis of themes from the perspective of the philosophy and approach to the idea of family engagement.
The main theme identified in the responses to the asked questions is that the goal of the family engagement is the creation of a secure environment for children based on the cooperation with the parents and community. The respondent accentuated that family engagement would lead to improved support and care for children. The reason is that children need to be brought up in a positive environment where much attention is paid to the social and emotional support.
One more important theme is the focus on the individual approach to each child as a result of involving parents, determining children’s needs, and identifying their interests. The respondent associated the individual approach with the idea of ‘appropriateness’ of the provided care. This theme was also reflected in the respondent’s discussion of the necessity of understanding children’s differences, respecting their diversity, and focusing on their particular expectations.
One more theme associated with the individual approach to supporting children and parents is the necessity of parent education regarding such services as provided by the Early Childhood Development Commission and the advantages of family engagement. While referring to the nature of services and care provided in the context of the Early Childhood Development Commission, it is possible to state that the findings were anticipated because they reflected the mission and values of the commission. Moreover, the findings are directly related to the reasons for the family engagement presented in the literature.
Connections to Literature
Since the idea of creating a secure environment for children is more associated with the provision of social services, it is not discussed in the literature on family engagement directly. Still, Blitz, Kida, Gresham, and Bronstein (2013) note that in situations when families live in poverty, they belong to the vulnerable category, and their rights are not protected, the cooperation between educators and parents based on the idea of the family engagement is extremely important. Keys (2015) asserts that social factors play a critical role in the quality of family engagement, and this idea is reflected in the responses analyzed in this research.
Barbour, Barbour, and Scully (2011) pay attention to the fact that such collaboration leads to decreasing the emotional pressure for children, and they feel more secure. The importance of focusing on individual needs of children is also supported by the findings of McBeath, Jolles, Chuang, Bunger, and Collins-Camargo (2014) and Garbacz, McIntosh, Eagle, Dowd-Eagle, and Hirano (2016) who noted that educational and social organizations can benefit more from the cooperation with families and communities when the educational and care programs are developed focusing on their individualities and differences in needs.
Also, such an approach is the basis of child-centered education. The necessity of the family education is also mentioned in articles by Blitz et al. (2013) and McBeath et al. (2014) as the key to making the communication and cooperation of educators, parents, and communities more productive.
Evaluation of Analysis in the Context of Philosophy
This research added to my philosophy and approach to understanding the family and community engagement in terms of accentuating more areas that need to be taken into account while involving parents and communities in the cooperation. Thus, I have found that more attention should be paid to the idea of security for children that can become the result of developing strong cooperation with the parents and communities. Therefore, I chose to change some aspects of my philosophy to reflect my current vision of the family and community engagement as associated with my educational practice (Appendix). I have added my ideas regarding such points as the children’s vulnerability and security, as well as family education as the guarantee to promote the collaboration.
The paper presents an analysis of the research findings. The analysis of the major themes identified in the findings is also supported by the literature on the topic of family engagement. Besides, the discussion of the findings has also changed my vision of the philosophy statement. Therefore, more points were added to the statement to reflect my current attitude to the idea of family engagement in the context of education.
Barbour, C., Barbour, N., & Scully, P. (2011). Families, schools, and communities. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
Blitz, L., Kida, L., Gresham, M., & Bronstein, L. (2013). Prevention through collaboration: Family engagement with rural schools and families living in poverty. Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services, 94(3), 157-165.
Garbacz, S. A., McIntosh, K., Eagle, J. W., Dowd-Eagle, S. E., & Hirano, K. (2016). Family engagement within schoolwide positive behavioral interventions and supports. Preventing School Failure: Alternative Education for Children and Youth, 60(1), 60-69.
Keys, A. (2015). Family engagement in rural and urban head start families: An exploratory study. Early Childhood Education Journal, 43(1), 69-76.
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McBeath, B., Jolles, M. P., Chuang, E., Bunger, A. C., & Collins-Camargo, C. (2014). Organizational responsiveness to children and families: Findings from a national survey of nonprofit child welfare agencies. Children and Youth Services Review, 38(1), 123-132.
The purpose of education is to develop the child’s intellectual and emotional potential while concentrating on his or her needs. Therefore, the focus of education differs, depending on the child’s age and level of development. In this case, an educator should approach each child individually. The important information about the child and his or her needs can be collected only from parents. Family engagement is an important aspect of early childhood education; however, this factor should be regarded as significant at each stage of the student’s growth and development (Halgunseth, Peterson, Stark, & Moodie, 2009).
From this perspective, an educator should continuously cooperate with families and communities to guarantee that children learn and develop within positive and supportive environments. Much attention should be paid to educating parents regarding the importance of family engagement and its benefits for children.
The work to promote the learning and development of children is a sequential and continuous process. As a result, it cannot stop when a child is at home. This aspect makes the family and community engagement an important factor that can guarantee the natural development and learning of a child. A teacher needs to gain the support of the family to expect the complex development of a child (Fantuzzo, Gadsden, Li, Sproul, & McDermott, 2013).
A teacher who promotes the family and community engagement works to create relationships for parents and other educators or community representatives to build a secure and supportive environment for a child. The creation of a secure environment means addressing such issues as the poverty of the family, its belonging to the vulnerable category, and the lack of resources among other ones. The learning is an ongoing process, and educators need to involve families in the decision-making process and discussion of the students’ successes (Barbour, Barbour, & Scully, 2011). Another important aspect is respect for diversity because a teacher should educate children with the focus on their diverse backgrounds and work with families and communities to address the specific students’ needs.