Themes - Family Engagement Inventory

Family Photo

Family Engagement Themes

The theme domain includes qualities and characteristics of family engagement within each discipline.

Child Welfare

Meaningful family engagement contributes not only to the well-being of the child and the family, but also to the well-being of the community. In effective family engagement

  • Families are regarded as essential resources and partners in their cases as well as throughout the child welfare system
  • Families are provided genuine opportunities for collaborative and authentic inclusion in decision-making about child welfare services, policies, supports, and systemic issues
  • Families are empowered. This empowerment is a shared process between families and child welfare professionals

Family-Centered Principles and Values

  • Strengths based practice
  • Collaborative problem solving
  • Open, honest, and respectful interactions
  • Respectful culturally competence
  • Joint planning and decision-making
  • Community partners
  • Formal and informal supports and resources

Systems of Care Principles and Values

  • Child centered
  • Family focused
  • Individualized
  • Strengths based
  • Family-driven care
  • Interagency collaboration
  • Child, youth, and family involved as full partners
  • Culturally and linguistically competent and responsive
  • Coordinated at both the system and service delivery levels
  • Wide array of community-based services and supports
Plus image. Click to expand view

Juvenile Justice

Effective family engagement includes the following

  • Shared decision-making with families and youth
  • Encouragement of parents and family members to express preferences, needs, priorities, and disagreements
  • Respect for families' experiences and input
  • Strength-based practices
  • Coordinated services across systems
  • Cultural competence
  • Wide array of community-based services and supports
  • Least restrictive or intrusive placement settings
  • Establishment of peer support activities for parents
  • Staff trained on using a strength-based approach and effective communication strategies with families
Plus image. Click to expand view

Behavioral Health

Systems of Care Principles and Values

  • Child centered
  • Family focused
  • Family-driven care
  • Individualized
  • Strengths based
  • Interagency collaboration
  • Child, youth, and family involved as full partners
  • Culturally and linguistically competent and responsive
  • Coordinated at both the system and service delivery levels
  • Wide array of community-based services and supports

Family-Driven Care

Family driven means families have a primary decision-making role in their children's care and have a voice in establishing the policies and procedures governing care for all children in their community, State, Tribe, territory, and nation. Family-driven care includes the following:

  • Sharing decision-making with families and youth
  • Providing information to ensure informed decisions and choices
  • Establishing peer support activities for parents
  • Focusing on cultural and linguistic competence
  • Encouraging parents and family members to express their preferences, needs, priorities, and disagreements
  • Monitoring changes to the child's treatment plan, as well as monitoring treatment outcomes
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of all efforts to promote the behavioral health and well-being of children and youth
  • Allocating staff, training, and resources to make family-driven care a reality in organizations
  • Including families in agency policy, program development, and professional education
Plus image. Click to expand view


  • Family engagement is a shared responsibility in which schools and other community agencies and organizations are committed to engaging families in meaningful ways and in which families are committed to actively supporting their children's learning and development.
  • Family engagement is continuous across a child's life and involves ongoing commitment but changing parental roles as children mature into young adults.
  • Effective family engagement occurs and is reinforced in the multiple settings where children learn: at home, in prekindergarten programs, in school, in afterschool and summer programs, in faith-based institutions, and in the community.

Effective family engagement must have the following characteristics:

  • Relational: Educators need to be intentional about building relationships with families whose children they will be teaching.
  • Interactive: Educators, students, and families need to work together.
  • Collaborative: Families and communities have information and knowledge that educators need to enhance children's learning.
  • Developmental: Educators need to build the capacities of the families to provide education and knowledge within the home.
  • Linked to learning: Educators should provide opportunities for parents to learn about an educational tool or skill that will support their children's learning.
Plus image. Click to expand view

Early Childhood Education

  • Early learning programs expect, welcome, and support family involvement in decision-making related to their child's education.
  • Programs that recognize and respect parents' roles as their child's first and most important teachers can encourage families to serve as advocates for their children and participate in learning activities at home and in the program.
  • Families and early learning programs engage in consistent, two-way, and linguistically and culturally appropriate communication.
  • Programs that provide opportunities for ongoing communication can acquire and share important insights about a child's strengths and needs so that both teachers and parents can more effectively support the child's development and education.
  • Families' knowledge, skills, and backgrounds are integrated into the learning experience.
  • Programs benefit from family members' unique knowledge and skills by providing opportunities for volunteering and other participation. Program staff glean valuable information about children's lives, families, and communities and use it to enhance their curricula and teaching methods.
  • Programs help families develop a home environment that enhances learning.
  • Engagement allows programs to assist families in providing a home environment that reflects the family's culture and supports the child's learning experience.
  • Early learning programs promote an environment for ongoing and comprehensive family engagement.
  • Programs that ensure program staff are trained and receive needed supports can fully engage culturally, linguistically, and economically diverse families and promote meaningful relationships.

Head Start/Early Head Start Parent, Family, and Community Engagement (PFCE) Framework

  • Family engagement is embedded in the work of all staff members, management systems, and leadership priorities.
  • Family engagement focuses on evidence of positive, goal-directed relationships.
  • Family members, through ongoing relationships, are engaged in a variety of goal-directed ways related to PFCE outcomes.
  • Programs that engage families use child and family data to improve services.

To promote family engagement, schools and Head Start centers can take the following actions:

  • Align, integrate, and coordinate family engagement strategies in all aspects of programming, including, but not limited to, involving families in governance, establishing staff positions that focus exclusively on family engagement, identifying specific family engagement responsibilities and professional development opportunities for all roles across systems and programs, providing families with multiple and diverse opportunities for engagement, and creating physical environments that are welcoming and culturally and linguistically responsive
  • Promote a vision for family engagement that is consistent across systems and programs and that can set the stage for families' involvement in their children's development and education at all ages
  • Connect families to organizations that support families
  • Establish formal partnerships with community partners to promote family wellness and adult learning and enhance children's learning and family stability
  • Ensure that the learning environment, children's curricula, and all family engagement opportunities respect, reflect, and embrace families' cultures, are without bias, and are linguistically accessible
  • Encourage two-way communication by welcoming information from families on all aspects of the child's life and development, including their culture, traditions, and home language
  • Promote shared responsibility for children's healthy development, learning, and wellness by valuing families' experiences and strengths and providing opportunities for shared learning
  • Work with families to identify strategies that support children's development and learning at home, in the classroom, and in the community
  • Improve integrated and systemic family engagement practices by regularly collecting and analyzing data on the effectiveness of the practices to guide decision-making and policy change and to inform technical assistance and professional development
Plus image. Click to expand view


Please take 5 minutes to answer our survey questions. Your input will help strengthen the Family Engagement Inventory website to better meet your needs.

Plus image. Click to expand view