Consistent with our belief that parents are children’s first and most important teachers, NBCDI relies on a definition of family engagement that views it as a “systemic and sustained commitment that occurs across time, spans many settings, and requires shared responsibility from all parties.” Yet despite families’ critical role, many schools and early childhood programs struggle to successfully engage and empower parents and the broader community. While leaders and elected officials trumpet the importance of family, current policies and practices at the federal, state, district and school levels rarely provide sufficient support to teachers or to parents, nor is anyone held accountable for comprehensively and consistently engaging a diverse range of families. Further, although there are excellent parenting education programs currently in use across the United States, many of them do not possess the depth of cultural relevance that allows the curriculum to fully resonate with Black parents, in particular.
As part of our work to support and promote the development of evidence-based programs designed specifically to engage, educate and empower parents and communities of color, NBCDI has developed and is implementing (with a rigorous evaluation supported by Child Trends) the second edition of the Parent Empowerment Program (PEP), a comprehensive, culturally-relevant, self-discovery curriculum for parents and guardians to improve their effectiveness as the primary positive influence in the lives of their children.
NBCDI believes in prioritizing conversations about race, culture, class and gender in the context of family engagement; not to say that these things must, or should, be at the forefront of all of our conversations, but rather to say that those of us who provide services and solutions should learn as much as we can about the context of race and culture bias in which our children and families are embedded. It is critical for us to make conscious decisions about engaging with family and community members in ways that demonstrate a deeper and more complete understanding, as part of our efforts to build positive relationships that ensure parent engagement is an ongoing series of supports that create a strong foundation of connection, particularly in the early years.