Fostering School and Family Partnerships

Schools and families both play critical roles in students’ social-emotional and academic success. To meaningfully strengthen these important partnerships, we must first abandon the notion that family engagement is about whether family members attend school events or volunteer in the school buildings. It also includes the things that families do at home with their children (Wilson, 2013). It encompasses both parent voice and presence.

The National PTA describes family engagement as a shared responsibility in which both schools/community organizations and families must be committed to engaging each other and actively supporting their children’s learning and development. It is constant across a child’s life, across contexts, carried out everywhere that children learn (home, pre-k, school, after school programs, faith-based institutions and community programs).

Successful engagement is a continuous, reciprocal process that involves school and family emphasis on shared decision making, consistent two-way communication, collaboration and exchange of knowledge, and creating and sustaining learning activities that extend the school teachings and enhance students’ learning (Halgunseth et al., 2009).

Committee for Children programs incorporate many ways to support family engagement:

  • The Second Step program includes an access code so families can access, which has activities and videos to help families get involved with the program
  • The Second Step and Talking About Touching programs both include Family Letters to communicate to parents about what children are learning in those programs
  • The Second Step program and the new Second Step Bullying Prevention Unit includes a Home Link activity for each week of the program, for the parents and adult family members to complete with their children
  • The Talking About Touching program has handouts and an outline for conducting a family night. The kit also includes the What Do I Say Now? video, to help parents and families prevent child sexual abuse 
  • The Steps to Respect bullying prevention Schoolwide Implementation Support Kit includes information for parent trainings

For those of you that are parents and family members of school-aged children, what other ways do you see that schools and communities can better engage you in your children’s social-emotional and academic learning? What are some other ways you have or can collaborate with schools and communities in actively supporting your children? We would love to hear from you.


Halgunseth, L. (2009). Family engagement, diverse families, and early childhood education programs: An 

integrated review of the literature. Young Children, 64(5), 56-58.

Wilson, S. (November 25, 2013). ENGAGE! A need for a common definition. National PTA. Retrieved from: