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Mel Gravely
October-13-2016

Parent Committees Are Here to Stay

parent-engagementSo, with much debate and fanfare, the parent committee is back and part of the updated Head Start Performance Standards! Are you excited?

“A program must establish a parent committee comprised exclusively of parents of currently enrolled children as early in the program year as possible. This committee must be established at the center level for center-based programs and at the local program level for other program options. When a program operates more than one option, parents may choose to have a separate committee for each option or combine membership. A program must ensure that parents of currently enrolled children understand the process for elections to the policy council or policy committee and other leadership opportunities.

Requirements of parent committees. Within the parent committee structure, a program may determine the best methods to engage families using strategies that are most effective in their community, as long as the program ensures the parent committee carries out the following minimum responsibilities:

  1. Advise staff in developing and implementing local program policies, activities, and services to ensure they meet the needs of children and families;
  2. Have a process for communication with the policy council and policy committee; and
  3. Within the guidelines established by the governing body, policy council or policy committee, participate in the recruitment and screening of Early Head Start and Head Start employees.”

How does your program run your parent committee? You now have greater flexibility with it. You can choose to run a group for each program option or not. What do you think will work for your parents? This will probably change, as the parent body keeps changing.

Do you attach parent committee meetings to trainings? This may be an easier way for you to get parents together. Hosting an inviting breakfast, lunch or potluck dinner while getting your parent committee’s input can be a great way to encourage active participation. Respect the parents time by preparing the topics to be discussed. Staff can give a monthly update to the parent committee with a brief overview of what’s happening. Remember, this is also a time to build leadership with the parents. You want them to learn how to effectively navigate their way and learn to advocate for their child.

Take input seriously. Listen to what parents are saying. Validate them and work through their concerns. That is what Head Start is about, and that is why the parent committee was reinstated. Let’s not forget the stars of our program. Help them succeed, and your program will be better for it.

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