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Volume XI, Number 1, Spring 2005
Issue Topic: Complementary Learning
Zenub Kakli and Holly Kreider, from HFRP, together with Tania Buck of BOSTnet and Caroline Ross of the United Way of Massachusetts Bay, illustrate how family engagement practices and programs can link the out-of-school time, school, and home contexts by fostering communication, respect, and networking among staff and families.1
Evaluation research suggests that engaging families in out-of-school time (OST) programs can improve program outcomes, adult–child relationships, and family involvement in schooling. Yet most OST programs lack a structured family involvement component, in part because programs face many challenges in involving families, such as linguistic differences, lack of program funds, and parents' busy work schedules.2
Through OST programs, the Engaging Families Initiative (EFI)3 aims to increase family involvement, engagement, and leadership in children's informal learning and academic achievement. Lead EFI collaborators—BOSTNet and the United Way of Massachusetts Bay (UWMB)—have partnered with nine OST program sites in greater Boston primarily serving Black and Latino children ages 6–10. EFI provides these programs with coordinator cohort trainings, research on best practices and successful models, individual technical assistance, initiative-wide events, and connections with local resources.
In their efforts to distill and disseminate lessons from their work, EFI partners have teamed up with Harvard Family Research Project to produce a guide for OST professionals on how to engage families.4 Site visits and review of evaluation data have already yielded preliminary lessons:
A parent in one EFI program expressed the mutual benefits of engagement when she described the program as “a family” where people have been able to relax and develop respectful relationships with one another. This parent has been involved in the program since its beginning and volunteers as the program's bookkeeper. She is so committed that she plans to continue volunteering even after her son stops attending the program.
1 To learn more about BOSTNET and the United Way visit their respective websites: www.bostnet.org and www.uwmb.org.
2 James, D. W., & Partee, G. (2003). No more islands: Family involvement in 27 school and youth programs. Washington, DC: American Youth Policy Forum. www.aypf.org/publications/nomoreisle/index.htm
3 The Engaging Families Initiative is funded by the Wallace Foundation as part of its Parents and Communities for Kids initiative. www.uwmb.org/ourwork/efi.htm
4 The guide will be available in winter 2005 and will highlight other strategies, lessons, and stories for engaging families in OST programs. To request a copy in advance, provide HFRP with your mailing address by emailing email@example.com or calling 617-496-4304.
Zenub Kakli, Research Intern, HFRP
Holly Kreider, Project Manager, HFRP
Project Director,Engaging Families Initiative, BOSTNet
Senior Director, Community Impact, United Way of Massachusetts Bay