For over 55 years, research has outlined the positive impact of trusting relationships between educators and families on student success. However, as pointed out by U.S. Health and Human Services and US Department of Education in a policy statement on family engagement, many see family engagement as an add-on, a nice to have, instead of essential and necessary. Many state and local policies reference “family engagement,” but are vague, provide little guidance or necessary resources, and often are not focused on student learning. And although teachers, principals, and families recognize the importance of building relationships with each other, many are uncertain of how to begin.

We believe building trusting relationships with families begins with confronting and understanding our own biases and assumptions. Intentional two-way communication that focuses on listening and learning from families about the hopes and dreams they have for their children is essential. It is important to build the capacity of families to support learning at home, which research has shown improves academic outcomes for children.

Recognizing that most teachers do not receive training to engage families, HVP trains and supports educators to partner with families with the goal of illuminating a more complete picture of every child, as well as understanding their unique goals and relationship to school and schooling. The relationships educators and families develop lead to supporting students’ social, emotional, and academic success together, in partnership.

Relationships based on trust and mutual respect among the adults in a child’s life are the very foundation upon which all other educational efforts must rest. As the research shows, effective family engagement must be relational and linked to learning, building the capacity of educators and families alike to support student success.