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Room at the Table: Parent Engagement in Head Start

by Shanna Grefsrud
March/April 2011
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Article Link: http://www.childcareexchange.com/article/room-at-the-table-parent-engagement-in-head-start/5019857/

Eight parents are clustered around a kidney-shaped table, shoulders hunched and legs askew as each sits perched on a 14-inch chair. They lean in closely as they listen to a mother share her story. It’s the first she’s spoken all night. There has been lots of sharing and laughter as everyone tells tales of bedtime woes and sibling wars. “But I want to do better by my kids,” she says, “I’ve learned a lot, and it’s not easy, but I’m trying to do what I have to do to be a good mom.”

To the Head Start teacher sitting in this circle of grown-ups, it’s familiar. It’s the moment that parent engagement becomes real. It’s the moment the parent’s heart speaks, and her peers nod and give her affirmation.

You’ve read of the magic of the kitchen table. The Head Start model of home visits and relationship-based work is a powerful tool for parent engagement. Equally important, but sometimes overlooked, is the group process. Head Start Performance Standards require monthly Parent Center Committee meetings and shared decision making with a Policy Council comprised of parent representatives elected by their peers. This is no easy task. Parents appear to be very busy ...

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