A family’s first impression of your program will often come from the physical environment and how they are greeted. The program space – including its entrance – should indicate that families are valued, cared for, and respected. Signs with greetings in many languages demonstrate to families from diverse cultures that they are welcome. Staff should address all families in a warm and friendly manner. When possible, hire staff or engage volunteers who can communicate in the languages spoken by your families. Positive experiences when families first enter your program will support the development of positive relationships. Do you know what makes your families feel welcomed? The Rollout the Welcome Mat provides a friendly way of collecting information from families about what makes them feel comfortable.
The foundation for successful implementation of family engagement is trust. It requires trust from all stakeholders to facilitate the home-to-program connection. Trust involves the willingness to be vulnerable based on the belief that the other party is benevolent, reliable, competent, honest, and open (Tschannen-Moran & Hoy 2000). Working to earn the trust of families, staff, young people, and administrators is an ongoing priority, requiring us to partner in a way that is transparent and has a clear focus on promoting program improvement. Our ability to connect and honor family voice feeds the efficiency in relationship and community building. Partnering with families about their interests, thoughts, celebrations, and struggles allows us to develop a relationship of mutual respect, honor, and trust.