Community and Family Engagement

Building Block 5

building block 5

What It Means:

Programs communicate their value to and connect with the wider community.  Staff builds positive relationships and meaningful interactions with families and community partners.


Why It Matters:

A young person’s development is strengthened when positive reinforcement comes from many partners working together—from parents, families and caregivers who feel valued by the program and can better support their children at home to communities that are strengthened by a positive image of youth making valuable contributions to our world. Young people are exposed to new ideas, experiences and/or supports that the program alone can’t provide.


What Effective Practices Look Like:

  • Program proactively builds meaningful community partnerships that have a logical fit and bring mutual value to each partner.

  • Program actively embraces the culture(s) of young people, their families and their communities.

  • Program encourages and welcomes family and community involvement (as volunteers, presenters, partners, etc.)

  • Programs and families regularly communicate with each other about things like the youth’s progress, opportunities to get involved, and feedback on the program.

  • Program encourages and acknowledges young people’s contributions to the community.

  • Program communicates with and is visible in their local community.

  • Communication takes place in multiple languages (when appropriate) and through multiple channels.

More Building Blocks

Research and Reports

Harris, E., Rosenberg, H. and Wallace, A. (2012). Families and Expanded Learning Opportunities: Working Together to Support Children's Learning. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Family Research Project.
This brief explores the evidence-based ways that families and afterschool program staff must work together to ensure a high-quality program that contributes to young people’s learning.

Horowitz, A. and Bronte-Tinkew, J. (2007). Building, Engaging, and Supporting Family and Parental Involvement in Out-of-School Time Programs.  Washington, DC: Child Trends.
This brief lays out why family involvement is so important for afterschool programs, and what they can do to encourage and sustain it in their program.

The Expanded Learning & Afterschool Project. “Family Engagement.” From the Expanding Minds and Opportunities compendium.
This page features articles on the research and best practices for family engagement in afterschool programs from a collection of leading youth program and afterschool researchers and practitioners.

Tools and Templates

You for Youth (Y4Y). “Learn: Family Engagement.
This user-friendly online resource comes from, the online professional learning and technical assistance resource for 21st Century Community Learning Centers. However, the resources are open for anyone to use. It includes, tools, templates, pre-made training kits, videos, and lots of engaging resources on Family Engagement and other topics. Make sure to also explore the “Teach: Family Engagement” page and the “Tools: Family Engagement” page.

Texas Afterschool Centers on Education (ACE). “Family Engagement in Out-of-School Time Needs Inventory.
This is a quick and easy Inventory Tool to help assess family engagement in your afterschool program.

Harvard Family Research Project. “Create Your Own Case Toolkit.
This toolkit is designed to lead you through steps and exercises to write your own Family Engagement case studies and facilitate discussions around them with your afterschool program staff. By reviewing various Family Engagement case study scenarios with your staff, you help build their skills to effectively engage families in the program.