Embedding Equity in Community Assessments to Inform the Development of Family Engagement Programs

Research BriefEarly ChildhoodNov 30 2021

Family engagement programs are a promising method to support children’s learning and development.[i] Through the use of tailored activities, curricula, or protocols, early care and education (ECE) programs and schools can connect with, engage, and partner with families to better meet their and their children’s learning goals. Community assessments (i.e., talking with various community members about their backgrounds, strengths, and challenges as well as identifying opportunities for new supports) can improve the design of the family engagement programs so they are relevant, valuable, and rooted in community members’ needs.[ii]


To ensure just and fair inclusion in community assessments, and ultimately equal opportunity to inform programs, it is important to embed equity in community assessments. Embedding equity in community assessments (and other research) involves using strategies to intentionally reach and raise the voices of those who do not usually have a say in decision making. When equity is embedded in community assessments, we can improve the chances that meaningful and critical perspectives are considered in the design of family engagement programs to address underlying factors that maintain inequalities.

In 2019, PBS KIDS collaborated with Child Trends to help develop family engagement programs in communities across the United States. The family engagement programs aimed to build meaningful community connections and support PBS KIDS’ mission to make a positive impact on the lives of children by involving families, teachers, caregivers, and communities as learning partners. By including community partners in these efforts, family engagement programs can extend beyond individual schools and homes, increasing access to supports and ensuring that schools, families, and community members have the support they need from one another to promote children’s healthy development.

In this brief, we describe the approach we took in conducting community assessments to inform the development of four PBS KIDS Family Engagement Programs and outline key strategies from our work that helped embed equity throughout the process:

  1. Examine backgrounds and biases.
  2. Shift power dynamics to honor community strengths.
  3. Meaningfully engage the community.
  4. Avoid assuming one normative, standard, or default position.
  5. Make a commitment to understand the root causes of issues.

ECE programs and schools, community organizations, and other partners can consider including equitable strategies in their community assessments to develop relevant and sustainable programs to support family engagement.


[i] Jeynes, W. (2012). A meta-analysis of the efficacy of different types of parental involvement programs for urban students. Urban Education, 47: 706 – 742.

[ii] Community assessments can use various methods of data collection, including surveys, interviews, focus groups, etc. For more information on what community assessments are and how to conduct them, see this resource: https://www.cdc.gov/globalhealth/healthprotection/fetp/training