Family Services Approach
Shine Early Learning utilizes Acelero Learning’s family engagement model, which is grounded in a public health approach, and is structured around three goals:
Strengthen family engagement with all families to encourage high quality parent/child interactions that will help close the achievement gap
Segment and provide individualized support to motivated families according to self-identified needs and aspirations
Build social capital among families to sustain engagement and support for one another over time
Through these three goals, Shine Early Learning seeks to leverage a program’s full potential to build authentic family partnerships. It is through such strong family partnerships that Head Start and Early Head Start can enhance family efficacy and fully capitalize on families’ central roles in their children’s education.
Shine on, Families
Research shows that strong parent/child interactions promote school readiness and life-long learning. Our first goal anchors family engagement work around the fundamental core premise: we must build partnerships with all families to enhance parent/child interactions. As such, we offer Shine on, Families, our research-based family curriculum.
Building on program development and research done through a partnership with the Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child’s Frontiers of Innovation network, Shine on, Families utilizes a PEER mantra, an acronym for Pause, Engage, Encourage and Reflect, to promote family interactions that build executive function, a foundational skill for school readiness. Shine on, Families extends Acelero Learning’s classroom curriculum, Ready to Shine, into families’ homes. Education and family engagement staff take a fully integrated approach to program execution. The curriculum utilizes 135 HS PEER Cards and 50 EHS PEER cards to guide families through daily learning activities that are fun, interactive and easily integrated into a families’ home routines. The PEER framework has created a shared language across all staff and families for what high quality parent/child interactions look and feel like, and how they can strengthen child outcomes.
Shine on, Families’ strategies have also been informed by the research on adult learning, with a strong focus on providing multiple venues for modeling, coaching, practice and reflection. Family Engagement Network meetings create a space where families share their hopes, aspirations and challenges, while popular Family Learning Parties draw hundreds of families and their children to join teachers, Family Advocates and other families to model, practice and receive coaching in the PEER framework -- but most of all, to have fun learning through play.
Differentiated Family Support
There are families among those attending Head Start and/or Early Head Start programs who experience higher levels of stress and vulnerability or whose children have special needs. Shine Assist’s approach includes a specialized family services staffing model that allows family services teams to triage and provide more targeted, intensive support to these families. As a result, staff resources at Shine Assist partner programs are used in a more differentiated way than at most Head Start programs. Family Support Advocates carry caseloads of more vulnerable families and receive clinical consultation and support to stabilize families in crisis and collaborate with external agencies with which families may already be involved. Health and Disabilities Advocates support families of children with chronic health conditions and special needs as they navigate and advocate within the large networks and systems of care so critical to these children’s development. Family Engagement Advocates focus their efforts to connect the program’s most stable families with one another to pursue self-sufficiency aspirations and to build a community of belonging committed to their children’s shared school readiness and success.
Building Social Capital
The bonds that families build with one another and the sense of community that they cultivate will ultimately sustain families long after their children leave a Head Start program. Their relationships and connections to community partners reduce social isolation and promote a sense of belonging to a community committed to young children’s success. This focus on building social capital among families is integrated into all aspects of Shine on, Families and Shine Assist’s differentiated family support model. The Shine Assist approach includes informal support groups, where families who live near one another or who share similar family circumstances or aspirations gather, with the hopes of strengthening the collective efficacy of the communities we serve.
To support high quality execution, a program with a strong and intentional family engagement approach requires a holistic staff professional development model. Shine Assist promotes structured onboarding, competency self-assessment, coaching, individual and group supervision, and regular professional learning communities called Family Consultation Learning Communities. These opportunities for consistent professional development, feedback, and capacity building create an organizational culture that is committed to learning and execution improvement. It also serves to model the kinds of respectful and equitable interactions that we expect staff to engage in with families.