Building Family Partnerships: Family Engagement Findings from the Head Start FACES Study

Publication Date: February 15, 2018
Building Family Partnerships: Family Engagement Findings from the Head Start FACES Study Cover

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  • Published: 2018


Research Questions

  1. What do family engagement efforts look like in Head Start?
  2. How are families engaged in Head Start and in their children’s learning and development at home and in the community?
  3. What staff are involved in family engagement efforts, and in what ways are they involved in those efforts?

In recent years Head Start has worked to integrate parent and family engagement activities within program systems and services. This full-program approach is outlined in the Head Start Parent, Family, and Community Engagement Framework. Within this framework, family engagement is more than parent involvement in program activities. It is the ongoing positive and goal-directed relationships between parents and staff that support parents as they nurture their children’s learning and development.

The increasing emphasis on family engagement in Head Start programs builds on research that has found family engagement is important for children’s learning and development (NCPFCE 2013; McWayne et al. 2004).


The preliminary data in this report describe parent and staff perspectives on the family engagement activities and service provision in Head Start programs. This includes information on:

  • How parents describe the environment of Head Start programs
  • What staff are involved in family engagement efforts
  • How parents and staff (teachers and family services staff) describe their relationships and interactions with one another
  • How programs engage with community partners to provide comprehensive services to families

Finally, the report discusses how the reported family engagement activities align with the Framework.

Key Findings and Highlights

  • Parents and staff report a range of family engagement and service provision activities aligned with the Framework.
  • Parents report programs are welcoming environments, they have positive relationships with staff, and staff support family outcomes in most areas of the Framework.
  • Staff at all levels engage families and individualize services.
  • Staff regularly share information and resources with their colleagues.
  • Based on parent and staff reports, some aspects of program functioning around family engagement may require further support.
    • Program staff may need more support for engaging with families in more collaborative ways in two areas—setting goals for themselves and their child and supporting their child’s learning and development.
    • Family outcomes in the areas of parent-child relationships, transitions, and advocacy and leadership may require additional focus from program staff.
    • Some discrepancies exist between parent and staff reports of how families’ culture and values are considered in service provision.

Together, the findings suggest that programs excel in a number of areas but may require more support or focus in others. More data in specific areas, including program foundations (for example, program leadership, continuous improvement, and professional development), could be useful for providing a better understanding of family engagement and service provision in Head Start.


The FACES sample provides information at the national level about Head Start programs, centers, classrooms, and the children and families they serve. To provide more information on family engagement activities and service provision, the FACES Family Engagement Plus study collected quantitative and qualitative data from nationally representative samples of children’s parents, teachers, and family services staff in spring 2015. Data were collected from the 60 programs participating in child-level data collection. In total, 1,641 children’s parents (as part of surveys and a subsample of 315 of those parents as part of interviews), 221 teachers, and 145 family services staff (FSS) participated in the Plus study.

The samples used for this report provide information on all Head Start teachers and FSS and on all children enrolled in Head Start in fall 2014 and who were still enrolled in spring 2015. All findings are weighted to represent these populations.


Aikens, N., E. Cavadel, J. Hartog, F. Hurwitz, E. Knas, O. Schochet, L. Malone, and L. Tarullo. (2017). Building Family Partnerships: Family Engagement Findings from the Head Start FACES Study, OPRE Report 2017-102, Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.


Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey
Parent, Family, and Community Engagement
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