A Maryland State Department of Education Resource


Maryland Family Engagement Toolkit: All Goals

Explore all the resources and knowledge within each Goal below.

Maryland Family Engagement Toolkit: All Goals
 \  family-engagement-toolkit  \  Maryland Family Engagement Toolkit: All Goals

Goal 1: Family Engagement Initiatives Should Promote Family Well-Being
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Maryland’s vision for family engagement is a two-generation strategy. Families are the key to a child’s early development and learning. A goal of family engagement initiatives must support family well-being.

Grocery Game Plan

Combat rising food prices by planning meals with children in advance.


Eating healthy meals can help manage anxiety and improve children’s moods.

5 Tips for Parents to Save Money and Reduce Picky Eater Food Waste

As food prices continue to rise, your picky eater tastes and food choices will continue to develop.

Quick Tips

CPRConcerns Priorities Resources

To effectively partner and build relationships with families, we must be aware of and validate their concerns, priorities and resources.

Family Voice

“When my child has been sick, the staff have checked on her and also provided helpful information to help her feel better. It leaves a good feeling to know the staff cares about our well-being.”
– Parent, Greenbelt Children’s Center, Prince George’s County


Program Leadership and Professional Development

Family well-being is critical to children’s success. Programs that are invested in improving a family’s well-being will provide professional development opportunities in this area. Below are topics and trainings that can help support you as you partner with families:

Parent and Family Certificate

Use this certificate to support parents and families.

Guide to Developing Relationships with Families

Explore the role that positive goal-oriented relationships play in effective family engagement.

Communicating with Families

Explore a variety of strategies to communicate more effectively with families.

Program Environment

First and foremost, you want your program or classroom to be welcoming of all family structures, sizes and arrangements – and will hold the family in high regard and partner effectively with parents. Relationships between families and early care and education providers will be receptive, responsive, and respectful.

The Three R’s

When working with families, relationships should be built on the Three R’s:

  • Receptive – families and staff will listen and be more accepting of what is being said or given to each other.
  • Responsive – families and staff will react in a positive manner to what is being said or given to each other. Staff and families will be more open to suggestions and sensitive to each other’s needs.
  • Respectful – families and staff will behave in a way that shows regard for each other.

Family and Community Partnerships

When early care and education providers partner with families and communities, it helps ensure children’s success. Start by developing contracts or agreements with community agencies that support families. Then help families to identify their needs and provide the resources needed to address them. To help families feel more comfortable, try using Conversation Starters like asking them about typical daily routines such as bedtime.

The DRU Judy Center Helps Parents Establish Bedtime Routines

Although the focus was on bedtime, there were no pajamas, lullabies or nightlights at the Little Flowers Early Childhood and Development Center, Inc. in Northwest Baltimore. There were, however, a group of parents and a special stack of boxes.

Bedtime Conversations Checklist and Action Plan

Support families when they express concerns about children’s sleep patterns.

Parent Tips: Establishing Routines

Establish routines with infants, toddlers and preschoolers.

Teaching and Learning

The family’s well-being has a direct impact on the child. For instance, early care and education providers may notice changes in a child’s attendance, health, or mood. When you notice these changes, try having a conversation with the family to identify the problem and offer the appropriate resources.

Family Well-Being: Nutrition Tip Sheet

All early care and education providers can support families by promoting a nutritious diet and healthy eating habits in babies and children, which will lead to children’s healthy growth and development. 

Family Well-Being: Health Tip Sheet

All early care and education providers can support families by helping them to find consistent medical care and encouraging them to have their children monitored regularly.

Family Well-Being: A Focus on Family Depression

Evidence from early childhood research and practice shows a strong link between parents’ health and well-being and their children’s development.

Goal 2: Family Engagement Initiatives Should Promote Positive Parent-Child Relationships
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When children have a secure attachment to their families or parents, they are more likely to get along with adults and peers, have increased academic performance, and have higher self-esteem.

Teacher at desk with young girl smiling at one another

Help children develop resilience.

Supporting Child and Student Social, Emotional, Behavioral, and Mental Health Needs

Seven key challenges to providing school- or program-based mental health support.

two children wearing shirts with painted sad and frustrated faces on them

Whether they are afraid, frustrated, sad or just plain angry, little ones experience “BIG” feelings too.

Family Voice

“When we first enrolled, I wasn’t that active, but now I am more active. The reminders from the school helped. I am able to be more engaged with my daughter and the activities. The program has really helped me to be more motivated with parenting. I have a child that’s willing to learn and that encourages me.”
– Parent, Arlington Judy Center, Baltimore City


Program Leadership and Professional Development

To support parent-child relationships, it is crucial to understand that families’ experiences and cultural differences impact parent and child relationships.

Children’s Mental Health Matters: Facts for Families

Parents and families will gain resources and support through this informative guide on children’s mental health issues.

The IECMH Consultation Is Here to Support Your Family and Provider

If your child is struggling, you are not alone.

Program Environment

Maintaining and promoting an open-door policy, encouraging families to participate in the program, and providing resources that make families feel welcome and valued as partners in their child’s education will go a long way in building positive relationships.

The Art of Resilience Day by Day

Adults can lead by setting examples that our children can follow.

Parent-Child Relationships Infographic

Providers can promote parent-child relationships in specific ways that value, support and respect the child and family.

Activities with Families: Fun with Families

Are you looking for new and creative ways to build partnerships with parents and families? Consider these ideas as part of your program’s plan to engage families.

Family and Community Partnerships

Many programs don’t have the ability to offer additional events or workshops, but they may be able to enhance what they offer to parents through strong partnerships. For example, a local child care program may not have the funding or the staff to offer parent workshops. However, they could partner with other organizations such as the local Judy Center.

Maryland’s Day-By-Day Calendar

Download this free Family Literacy Activity Forever Calendar.

Judy Center Early Learning Hubs (video)

The Judith P. Hoyer Center Early Learning Hubs, also known as “Judy Centers,” benefit everyone in Maryland by improving the quality of life for families. Find the nearest center and discover the many ways your local Judy Center can help support families and providers.

Teaching and Learning

More and more programs are using technology to communicate with families, share ideas and resources. Families feel connected to the program when they receive regular updates, announcements and reminders. By keeping families informed, providers are working to support their families and children.

Books that Encourage Social and Emotional Development

Help promote children’s healthy, social and emotional development.

Teaching Your Child to: Identify and Express Emotions

Parents and families can help their children understand and express emotions with support.

Joining Together to Create a Bold Vision for Next Generation Family Engagement: Engaging Families to Transform Education

This challenge paper examines the history, current practice and the future potential of family engagement as a key part of ensuring lifelong success for all children.

Goal 3: Family Engagement Initiatives Should Support Families as Lifelong Educators of Their Children
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Parents and family members are their child’s first teachers (i.e. the first ones in line to support their children’s learning). Maryland initiatives and the practices of early care and education providers should create collaborative relationships with a variety of service entities to support and empower the family in its role as first teacher.

a father and daughter sit under an indoor tent, reading a book and smiling

Family Literacy Bags are an effective way to engage and support families.

Brainy Acts: Build Your Child’s Brain for Success

Building the brain can ensure a lifetime love of learning.

screen shot of video of child care provider talking with parent

CentroNia tackles one of the many forms of family engagement.

Quick Tips

Help parents and families understand that by taking the time to teach their children routines and activities, they are supporting their children’s learning! To reinforce what you do every day in your program or classroom, share with families the Maryland Families Engage Family Activities by printing as a handout or including in your monthly newsletter.

Family Voice

“We come every week. You can see in every center that learning is the goal. After coming here, my child asks me to help sort socks and tells me about the colors. She also talks about different types of food at the grocery store.”
– Parent, Storyville, Baltimore County Public Library


Program Leadership and Professional Development

When programs recognize a family’s needs and how to support them, they have a true partnership, which supports early childhood learning. The mission of a program should include supporting staff as they bring parents into an educational partnership. The following is a helpful guide to establish your goals and strategies to support families:

To support parents as their child's first teacher, providers need to:

  • Build relationships with families so that they see you as a resource and a trusted source of information.
  • Provide parents with resources and skills so they feel empowered in their roles as parents and teachers.
  • Develop a consistent message about ways in which parents can help.
  • Ask and listen to what parents and families need to provide learning opportunities for their children.
  • Provide professional development to support staff to appropriately engage with families and collaborate with families.

To be effective first teachers, parents and families need:

  • An understanding of how and when children learn, including an awareness of developmental milestones.
  • Ideas for supporting and planning spontaneous and intentional learning opportunities.
  • Knowledge of the benefits of early learning.
  • An environment in which learning is encouraged and supported.

Program Environment

Early childhood educators often use phrases like “parents are their child’s first teacher” and “teachable moments” but we do not often think about how parents interpret these phrases and what they mean to them. Depending on a family’s experience, background and culture, these phrases may mean many things.

When you use the phrase...
Also say...
When you use the phrase, Parents are a child's first teacher
Also say,A parent or family is teaching throughout their day. Children learn through their interactions and experiences with their family and also through the behavior they see and hear.
When you use the phrase, Teachable moments
Also say, These are times when your child is more likely to be open to learn something or be made aware of something. These are great opportunities to build skills, reinforce lessons and it also offers an opening for parents to communicate with their children.
When you say, Children learn within their daily routine
Also say, To keep your child engaged and help to build skills, use the opportunities that occur in your day-to-day routine. For example, have your child help sort the laundry. They learn colors, build math skills through sorting and classifying, build language skills, and also learn responsibility by helping with daily chores.
When you say, Developmentally Appropriate Practices
Also say, What I'm doing with your child every day is just right for your child's age, background, and personality.

Family and Community Partnerships

Community organizations can play a huge role in providing parents with the knowledge they need to support their children’s learning and be effective first teachers. Many community programs offer ongoing events and resources to give families fun ways to build skills together.

Furry Listeners Encourage Young Readers

Read to a dog at your local library.

Moravia Park Judy Center Joins AARP Maryland and the Baltimore City Health Department to Honor Grandparents

Did you know: an estimated 3 million grandparents are now raising their grandchildren?

Frederick County Judy Center Counteracts “Summer Slide” with Splashy STEM

Judy Center coordinators and 15 volunteers worked together to engage families in early learning experiences, which was the result of a partnership among the United Way’s Summer Serve Program, PNC Bank, and Family Partnership.

Teaching and Learning

Classrooms and early learning settings are often the best place for parents to learn how to support their child’s learning. When families feel welcome and a part of the school or program community, they are engaged in their child’s development and learning.

Celebrating Your Child’s First Teacher: You!

Parents and families are their child’s first teachers.

You’re the Best Teacher!

Children learn best from rich and responsive social interactions.

Different Perspectives Video (English)

Watch how this teacher’s flexibility helped to reassure a stressed parent, while offering support.

Goal 4: Family Engagement Initiatives Should Support the Educational Aspirations of Parents and Families
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Programs such as Head Start, Maryland Family Support Centers and Maryland Judy Centers follow the two-generation strategy, which addresses the education and well-being of both child and parents. When programs help to educate families and empower them with skills to help them economically, they can help change the future for that child and family.

The Judith P. Hoyer Center Early Learning Hubs, also known as “Judy Centers,” benefit everyone in Maryland by improving the quality of life for families.

Man wearing african print shirt holds and kisses toddler with their eyes closed

Head Start by the Numbers Across the United States.

A diverse group of children sit on a rug in a classroom while a young woman teacher reads a book to them.

Describes how program elements can work together to positively influence child and family outcomes.

Quick Tips

Help engage parents and families as volunteers by adding them to your lesson plans. This will encourage more participation in program or classroom activities. Create a Parent Committee that partners with teachers and providers to identify a project, event or need for the program or school.

Family Voice

“Many parents assume that is the teacher’s responsibility to take care of everything when it comes to education and school, but parents need to be involved, too. Our children’s education is just as much, if not more, our responsibility as it is the teachers and we need to set that example for our children.”
– Parent, Carroll County Parent Leadership Training


Program Leadership and Professional Development

When education is valued for all, staff, families, and children are encouraged and motivated to learn and grow. Early care and education providers can prepare to engage parents by becoming familiar with the different types of education and training opportunities offered to families, including ESL programs or GED classes, computer skills training, and trainings or programs at the local college.

2021-2022 Statewide Kindergarten Readiness Assessment (KRA)

Statewide data 2021-2022 Kindergarten Readiness Assessment (KRA) of Maryland’s children.

Program Environment

Supporting parents and families to achieve their educational goals may seem overwhelming, but programs can make minor changes that will make a big difference. Programs can survey parents to determine their interests and offer trainings or workshops that meet their needs.

Adult Education Survey

Survey families about their interest in training opportunities.

Family and Community Partnerships

Parents are often overwhelmed with wanting to go back to school or attain job training, but they do not know where to start. Family Support Centers and Head Start programs use Family Partnership Agreements to create goals for families. If a parent’s goal is to complete their GED, they may break this down into smaller tasks like contacting the community college for the GED class schedule.

Exploring Strategies for Media Literacy for Families

Educators can help families make informed decisions and devise strategies for media use.

Teaching and Learning

When families value education, they will be more engaged in their child’s education and learning. Programs can support parents’ learning by offering trainings in early childhood education and development, but also by including parents as volunteers in the classroom.

Milestone Moments

Developmental milestones are behaviors and skills most children show and do by a certain age.

Goal 5: Family Engagement Initiatives Should Support Families Through the Care and Education Transitions of Early Childhood
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When a child transitions to a new learning environment, the child and the family change setting, teacher, and learning culture. These transitions are challenging for parents and families, and for providers and teachers, to navigate.

Animated picture of woman teacher talking with male parent

A provider partners with a father to ensure a smooth transition.

mother laying on ground with son giving each other a fist bump

Physical, cognitive, social and emotional development is essential to school readiness.

Learn how to understand and prepare for the transitions that occur throughout a child’s life.

Family Voice

“After the transition to Kindergarten, the social development encouraged in his younger years with the typical peers is clearly evident now. ‘Inclusion’ is what any parent wants for their child, but for a parent of a child with special needs… it’s a dream come true.”
– Parent, Kids Campus Early Learning Center, Calvert County, MD


Program Leadership and Professional Development

To ensure transition strategies are in place to support all families and all types of transitions, effective leadership is essential. Program leadership can create and promote policies and procedures to ensure smooth transitions.

Navigating the Transition to Kindergarten and School-Age Care

The transition to kindergarten is an important milestone in a young child’s life.

Family Engagement in Transitions: Transition to Kindergarten

This resource presents a summary of selected research, promising practices, and program strategies intended to be useful for Head Start, Early Head Start, and other early childhood programs.

Program Environment

Many programs collaborate with families to ensure smooth transitions by developing specific transition plans. These plans make children’s transitions more successful by bringing together the families and staff who support the child.

A transition plan should:

  • Identify the type of transition (between home and school, between classrooms, transition to Kindergarten, etc.)
  • Identify who is involved in the transition (families, staff members, children)
  • Develop a timeline for the transition
  • Identify supports and strategies for children and parents
  • Anticipate possible behaviors and concerns
  • Identify appropriate responses to behaviors

Family and Community Partnerships

Families often struggle with transitions especially when it comes to navigating the early intervention and preschool special education systems.  You can support families by offering to attend an IFSP or IEP team meeting with them, as both a “second set of ears” and to contribute important information you have about how the child functions in your program.

Learning Progress Form

This form provides a quick snapshot of children’s abilities as they enter Kindergarten. It also helps to prepare the teacher for their arrival with information about their new student.

IEP Meeting Workshop

Suggest that parents and families create their own agenda with the purpose of the meeting and a list of questions they may have before they attend the meeting.

Teaching and Learning

When parents have prepared their children for their transitions, whether it is within their daily routine or moving between programs, children will come to school more confident and ready to learn. Start by providing families with information about child development and the impact of transitions on children across early childhood and school settings. Then host a Transition Summit!

Transition to Kindergarten: Transition and Alignment Summit Guide

This guide provides resources to facilitate statewide and regional summits on transition and alignment in early childhood.

Goal 6: Family Engagement Initiatives Should Connect Families to Their Peers and the Community
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Personal networks are a key source of support for families with young children. Learning from one another and sharing common experiences can inform parent and families about resources, expand parenting strategies, and offer a source of comfort.

video screenshot showing a facilitator in front of a room full of parents and families

The Judith P. Hoyer Center Early Learning Hubs, also known as “Judy Centers,” benefit everyone in Maryland by improving the quality of life for families. Find the nearest center and discover the many ways your local Judy Center can help support families and providers.

Screenshot of video (woman talking).

Learning communities enable participants to share results and learn from each other, thereby improving their ability to achieve rapid yet significant progress.

Family Voice

“To know that the school and the Judy Center work together along with the community makes you feel good and a part of something special. I have been able to meet and build relationships with a lot of parents I probably would not have known if it was not for some of the trips and events the Judy Center offers.”
– Parent, Charles County Judy Center


Program Leadership and Professional Development

Creating a learning community – an environment that is safe and respectful where all adults, including staff and parents, can learn from each other – is important. Everyone can ask for the kinds of topics/information that they need and find helpful means for investing in high-quality professional development and coaching.

Ten key characteristics of learning communities are that they:

  1. Bring new players together.
  2. Seek to reach the most “in need.”
  3. Focus on learning from and with each other and share a belief that there is expertise amongst everyone.
  4. Focus on active learning that is experiential and engages participants in self reflection and self-discovery.
  5. Use new media to connect in creative ways.
  6. Actively create new curricula based on sound principles of child and adult learning and development.
  7. Focus on assessment, but tie assessment to child development.
  8. Reframe teaching as teaching AND learning together.
  9. Connect policy to practice.
  10. “Pay it forward.”

Program Environment

Parents need both social and cultural capital to engage in a program; but what does this mean? For parents to be actively engaged in a program, they will need peer to peer support as well as community resources and support.

Family Connections to Peers and Community

A family’s capacity to participate fully in their children’s school, program, and other social institutions can develop from their cultural and social capital.

Family and Community Partnerships

When early care and education providers connect families with formal and informal support systems, they create opportunities for families to build networks and strong relationships that can last through their children’s entire educational career.

Formal Support Systems

  • Doctors and Pediatricians
  • Early Child Care and Family Care programs
  • Local School Systems
  • Libraries
  • Other family serving agencies

Informal Support Systems

  • Family members and extended family
  • Neighbors and friends
  • Recreational groups
  • Religious institutions
Cultivating a Community of Champions for Children Through Transformative Family Engagement

At parent-teacher conferences, basketball games, talent shows and fundraisers, schools can be a magnet for families and a focal point for community activity.

Teaching and Learning

We often think of the child’s classroom when talking about teaching and learning, but remember, in a learning community, staff, parents, and children are learning. When programs create peer networks for parents, they feel comfortable to participate in the program more fully, including in the child’s classroom.

Dorchester County Judy Center Helps Children and Families Grow and Thrive

For the Dorchester County Judy Center, supporting parents and families as they raise their children is a community effort that combines practical help as well as fun.

Timber Grove Elementary ‘Tears Down the Walls’ for Families and Students

Timber Grove Elementary School took a new approach this past school year to welcoming students and their parents and families by hosting an event in the community instead of on school grounds.

Goal 7: Family Engagement Initiatives Should Support the Development of Families as Leaders and Advocates
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When parents and families are empowered, they can be a strong force for positive change in their child’s education and in many other areas of life. Therefore, family engagement practices of early care and education providers should support families to participate in leadership development, decision-making, program policy development, and community and state organizing activities to improve children’s development and learning experiences.

a video screen shot of a preschool classroom with the children saying Hola in response to a little girl saying, Hello is Hola! A teacher and parent watch the class

Watch how this teacher’s flexibility helped to reassure a stressed parent, while offering support.

Quick Tips

Sometimes just looking the part can help parents and families feel more comfortable! Try giving them a notepad, pen, and a bottle of water to help them look and feel more prepared for meetings, trainings, or workshops.

Family Voice

“When I started at the Family Support Center, my goal was to get my GED before my daughter graduated high school. She not only graduated high school, but she is enrolled in college.”
– Parent, Our House Family Support Center, Maryland Family Support Network Spring Training


Program Leadership and Professional Development

When supporting families as they grow into leaders, providing professional development and training for both families and staff is essential. Staff members need to be aware of how they can provide support and can help to coach and teach families the skills they need to help their children.

Partnering with Families of Children Who Are Dual Language Learners

Support home languages and embrace families’ cultures and traditions.

Communicating with Families

Explore a variety of strategies to communicate more effectively with families.

A Parent, Advocate, Teacher and Trainer

There is no “j” in family engagement. In other words, it’s a “judgment-free” community. Many members of the early childhood community are parents first.

Program Environment

As parents are building their leadership and advocacy skills, they will become more comfortable and participate more fully in the program. In addition, families will be more receptive to new experiences.

Advocacy and Leadership— Tips for Families: Every Day Leadership Skills

You use powerful leadership skills and abilities as you manage your household every day and guide your children in the little and big tasks of life. Here are just a few of the leadership skills you use every day.

Family Connections to Peers and Community

A family’s capacity to participate fully in their children’s school, program, and other social institutions can develop from their cultural and social capital.

Family and Community Partnerships

Having strong family partnerships will support you as you work with families to help them become leaders and advocates.

Quick Tips

Remember it is not enough to tell a parent to attend a meeting or to just take them to the meeting. As staff, we must prepare them for the meeting so they know what to expect and how to participate.

  • Tell them what the purpose of the meeting is and list two or three questions they can ask to help them participate.
  • Attend the meeting with the parents so you can coach them and make them feel more comfortable.
  • Sometimes just looking the part can help the parent feel more comfortable! Giving parents a notepad, pen, and a bottle of water helps them to look and feel more prepared. (Next time you’re at a meeting, look around the room. Nearly everyone will have these three items!)

Teaching and Learning

Leadership is important but how does it impact teaching and learning? Remember that when families understand their child’s development and understand the importance of their role in their child’s education, they work as partners with their teachers and provide information that is needed for the child’s success in the classroom.

Making Time for Leadership

Leadership can happen in your home, your early learning program, and your community.

Families as Advocates and Leaders

This resource presents a summary of selected research, promising practices, proven interventions, and program strategies for early care and education providers.

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