In 2011, Maryland received a $50 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) to enhance the state’s early learning system, including efforts to strengthen family engagement.
As a result, the Maryland Family Engagement Coalition came together with the goal of creating deeper, more responsive partnerships with the families of Maryland's young children. According to Linda Zang of the Division of Early Childhood Development,
"We want a family, no matter what program they enter, to be treated respectfully, to trust providers to share resources that they need and to be able to be partners in their child's early education and care."
Through training, technical assistance and other means of support, DECD is working to turn those goals into a reality across the state.
Here are some examples of family engagement efforts:
Maryland's Family Support Center Network offers high-quality care and education for children from birth to age four in 19 Family Support Centers across Maryland and offers families...
- Services related to health, mental health and nutrition
- Training, education and job assistance
- Parenting education and self-advocacy skills
Judith P. Hoyer ("Judy") Early Child Care and Family Education Centers provide coordination of early childhood education programs and offer families...
- Adult education and social services
- An array of activities that promote parenting skills
- Social networking opportunities that help families connect with their peers and their community
Reach Out and Read partners with pediatricians to not only provide young children with medical care, but also to offer families...
- Free age-appropriate books for their children
- Advice on how to stimulate their children's literacy development
- Services that support families being lifelong educators of their children
Every Child Ready to Read @ Your Library helps families by offering...
- Library resources for families
- Workshops that help parents learn how to maximize their time reading with their children in a way that is educational and fun
- Community supports for promoting literacy
Strengthening Families Parent Cafes help families by offering...
- Guided real-world conversations about parenting
- Ways to learn about support services that are available to them
- Opportunities to share ideas and learn from each other\
Guiding Principles for Family Engagement
The Maryland Early Childhood Family Engagement Coalition has identified three guiding principles for promoting family engagement:
- Positive, respectful and empathetic relationships between providers and parents are the foundation for successful family engagement strategies.
- Family engagement strategies must be appropriately resourced and designed to meet the specific needs of Maryland's low-income population
- Family engagement practices operate within a larger state system and can be enhanced or inhibited by other early childhood policies.
Family engagement cannot be promoted in isolation or without considering the specific circumstances of the family. The Coalition aims to enhance family engagement systematically and in all areas of the child's and the family's life. This will ultimately promote children's success in school and throughout life.
Helping Families to Help Their Children
One of the goals of the Maryland Family Engagement Coalition is to ensure access to the resources (educational, social, or otherwise) parents need to support their child. When families have the tools they need, they are able to give their children something only they can provide by being their best first teacher.