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How to Engage Families in Policy?

ELM hosts a quarterly community meeting for folks in the early learning world across Multnomah County. These meetings are a space where we bring a dilemma that we all face in our work, and collectively work to find solutions. At this month’s Early Learning Community Meeting we gathered insights on how to effectively manage requests for family input at the state and local levels.
We want parents’ voices in the decision-making process at state and local levels. But, right now, requests for family input are disjointed and duplicative. Most importantly, families aren't sure why they are being engaged or what kind of impact their having. We need a more effective way to engage families in policy and systems work.

In April's Early Learning Community Meeting, nearly 40 community partners brainstormed different strategies and recommendations to better engage families across the county. They talked about the importance of addressing barriers for families by providing food, childcare, transportation, and incentives. But they also tossed around a few new ideas, like creating a shared platform or data bank where community partners can share results from family engagement and solicit feedback from families. 

Following the community meeting ELM expanded on the list of recommendations by taking the conversation to our Parent Accountability Council (PAC). What better way to create recommendations for family engagement than to ask the families themselves?
The PAC, together with our Sector Council talked about why family voice is important and how, when it’s included, it can improve policy outcomes. Here are a few examples of the benefits: 

  • Systems get specific, timely feedback about what is working and what is not.
  • Resources aren’t wasted on services that families don’t want or need.
  • Families trust the system more when they are being heard and included.  

As a next step, ELM is convening a work group to create a one-page list of best practices that we can share widely with those who are seeking family input. Stay tuned!


If you would like to join us for the next work group to develop the one-page resource of best practices for family engagement on May 10th, 9:00-10:30 at United Way, please e-mail Amanda Friese for more details.
If you would like to join us for our next community meeting, please e-mail Amanda Friese to be added to the invite list.