The Robert Bowne Foundation Supports Family Involvement

by Anne Lawrence

"How do I increase family involvement in my program?" Staff of out-of-school-time programs have asked me this question over the years. There is no simple answer. Most parents have so many obligations that it’s hard for them to do more than pick up their children at day’s end.

Still, a number of programs have succeeded in involving caregivers in their children’s out-of-school-time education. Leaders of three such programs were on the panel of the first Robert Bowne Foundation network meeting on family involvement. Two of those panelists, Maria Santana and Laura Paris, wrote the articles in this issue of The Page Turner on how they involve families in their programs.

The idea of holding these network meetings grew out of my support visits with programs. I found that practitioners need time to talk informally with each other about their work. The topics that kept coming up in my meetings with grantees were:

  • Family involvement
  • Evaluation
  • Working with teens as staff and/or program participants

Thus, these topics were the focus of the first three network meetings. If you are interested in receiving the notes from the meetings, contact Crystal Williams. Network meetings were well attended by a diverse group of practitioners, so the discussions were interesting. We plan to continue holding network meetings on these topics and others participants identify.

At the first family involvement network meeting, participants identified the following questions:

  • Our program is just starting. How can we work with families from the beginning?
  • How can we form partnerships with parents?
  • What is a process for involving families?
  • How can programs support parent volunteering?
  • What are some new and creative ideas for involving families?
  • How can we bring information to families?
  • What are cost effective and meaningful ways to engage parents?
  • How can we incorporate books and family reading?

At the meeting, I shared insights on involving families from "Focus on Families! How to Build and Support Family-Centered Practices in After School," a joint publication of United Way of Massachusetts Bay, Harvard Family Research Project, and Build the Out-of-School Time Network. Here are some points that stood out:

  • "We need to rethink how we view and support parents. We need to create communities, organizations, and systems that recognize strengths of parents, regardless of their family composition, cultural background, or other individual differences, and that understands that parenting is best done in the context of a supportive, engaged community."
  • "Engaging families can also mean providing opportunities for parents to spend time with their children, learn more about children’s schooling, receive support with life needs, and participate in program decision making."
  • "You must first develop relationships with families, convey the importance of family involvement, and build a culture that supports families’ engagement in education."

The report notes that communicating with families is associated with improved program outcomes. I hope that the articles and book suggestions in this issue of The Page Turner will help you find ways to improve family involvement in your own program.

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In this Issue


Anne Lawrence
Laura Paris
Laurie Z. Ragsdale
Maria Santana


Jan Gallagher

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