Family and Community Engagement Tools –

Family and community knowledge systems are the informal and formal intergenerational ways in which children learn in their home and community environments. They are the glue that holds family and community together and contributes to their resiliency and effectiveness.

Richard Chase, Wilder Research, and Betty Emarita. Development and Training, Inc., developed and tested these two tools by listening to the voices of parents and early childhood development professionals whose practices support whole child development and well-being in diverse communities. The voices represented both urban and rural communities and many ethnic and cultural heritages, including African American, German, Hmong, Irish, Latino, Norwegian, Ojibwe, Somali, and Swedish.

The 14-item tool completed by parents provides a vehicle for assessing and discussing extended family support and connections, family and community transmission of moral and cultural values, and the extent to which families' feel that their experiences with institutions, programs, and agencies are responsive and supportive.

The 15-item tool completed by staff provides a means for assessing and discussing new dimensions of program quality that are important to families, including building character and integrity in children, helping children develop a sense of self, and understanding and valuing community.

When results of the two tools are compared, issues for discussion emerge that can lead to new strategies for improving program quality and family engagement based on valuing and respecting family and community wisdom.