Family Support

Intentionality“…separate support and engagement because while they are connected, there is a level of intentionality around each.”

The pandemic has created unprecedented needs in many communities because of issues such as loss of income, loss of housing, and challenges to mental and physical health. Some students’ families will need a greater level of support to help their children succeed. We should not assume that every family can meet their children’s foundational needs such as access to food, housing, and health care. While schools are often the first line of defense because they see children every day and can garner supports when they see a serious problem, the pandemic and the switch to remote learning made detection and intervention more difficult. Now as schools work in different modes, they are building systems to better track the well-being of their students and their families.

Asian grandmother and Kid wear mask and using mobile phone together. Thai Elderly Woman and Child sitting and learn online study at home. Happy family in New normal Lifestyle concept.

of teachers and admin reported check-ins with families as a top approach [to family support] to understanding how students were doing in terms of social-emotional health according to survey

Guiding Questions

  • How can a district, school, or community organization identify students with serious threats to their well-being?
  • How can a district, school, or community organization connect families to the resources they need?

Professional Development Connections

Make sure that educators’ professional development on family support covers the topics of anti-racism, anti-bias, and cultural responsiveness and relevance so that staff have ongoing learning about avoiding judgment, stereotypes, or bias when dealing with diverse cultural norms.

Use these selected strategies and resources
Strategies Resources

Conduct Multilingual Surveys

To understand parent and guardian concerns and focus your messaging, conduct periodic multilingual surveys. This will help define which resources families need most and prepare district, intermediary and school leaders to better address families’ obstacles such as financial challenges, housing instability, loss of family members, and family members who are essential workers. Surveys can be conducted through phone calls to families as well as by text, email, social media, and other methods.

This sample survey from Panorama is designed to hear from students, families, and staff during the 2020-21 school year.

Hold Regular Check-In Meetings

Regular check-ins with families were identified as a top approach to understanding how students were doing in terms of social-emotional health (90% of teachers and administrators, according to our survey).

Watch this brief video about how to send and use a quick weekly check-in via text using a Google form that lets families provide updates and request help related to issues such as physical or mental health, student tutoring, etc. (Edutopia)

Check out Rocketship School’s CareCorps guide for information on how to conduct a virtual wellness check.

Share Findings and Action Steps

Use multiple ways to share survey findings and resulting actions so that all families can access them. For example, you can have live online community conversations that are translated and recorded, send emails with multiple translations, and create a family hotline or webpage informed by survey results and family requests and reactions.

Use a texting program such as Remind, a 2-way text-based communication tool for teachers, students, and parents that has a translation function.

Ensure Clear, Streamlined Communications

Effective parent and guardian communication is a critical driver of student experience and achievement in school. This is true generally, but even more important during the pandemic as parents evaluate trade-offs and make decisions related to safety and learning.

Hold Virtual or Safe In-Person Home visit

A virtual home visit will allow you to check in with families on a personal level. Ideally, this would happen by video, but if families don’t have the Internet bandwidth for a video call, a phone call can work as well. The goal is to build and strengthen relationships and to assess family needs on a social-emotional level and check in on their physical needs, such as food, utilities, or other urgent challenges that might be met with support from your school district. Online workshops on topics such as mindfulness, stress management, and building and maintaining a healthy relationship with their child and others can be helpful.