By Shantel E. Meek, Ph.D., Senior Policy Advisor, Early Childhood Development
If you google “parenting” about 284 million results pop up. Last winter, the Washington Post published an article partly titled “Americans are Obsessed with Parenting." Part of the reason we’re obsessed with parenting is because we all want to be the best parents we can be for our children.
The unfortunate truth is that many, if not most, of what pops up in google searches, magazines, newspapers, television and the radio, is junk science; advice that can be unreliable and based more on opinion than science. Early childhood programs have an important role in partnering with parents and families, and providing capacity-building opportunities on promoting children’s learning and development. And they have the responsibility to do so in way that is scientifically sound and responsive to families’ strengths, needs, and wants.
Today we are launching a package of new resources for states, schools, and early childhood programs that make it easier to find and implement parenting interventions that have a research base and are responsive to families’ and communities’ needs. The package includes:
Despite the central role we know families play in children’s learning and development, too often the supports our own field offers our families do not meet high quality standards. Specific strategies, however well intentioned, may lack an evidence-base and/or the data tracking processes that ensure they are making a difference in families’ lives. Efforts may be short-lived and lack a sustainability plan. And content in interventions or activities do not always match the strengths, needs, and wants of the families in the community. We hope that these resources help us raise our own accountability to the families and children we serve, so that we can improve the quality of children’s earliest experiences, and that of their families.’
These resources are a continuation of our focus on supporting early childhood programs, so they can better partner with families. We encourage you to check out our resources on parenting, and family engagement and wellness more broadly, at our webpage on Parent, Family and Community Engagement. The site includes the Provider/Teacher Relationship Quality Measures which help programs assess relationships with families, and many professional development resources on our Professional-Development-to-go page, among many other resources. In the coming months, we will also be releasing a federal policy statement on family engagement in partnership with the U.S. Department of Education.
We hope these resources are helpful to the many early childhood stakeholders who serve young children and their families - states and communities, Head Start, Early Head Start, and Partnership grantees, child care programs and networks, public and private preschool programs, schools, and other community-based organizations that engage in this important work- because partnering with families on children’s learning and development is essential, not supplemental, to preparing children for school and helping them succeed once they arrive.