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Increasing family engagement to benefit Indiana children

April 11, 2019
Woman engaging in educational and fun, hands-on activities with three children.

Judy Ford of Caring Heart, Open Arms Childcare and Development Ministry in Hobart enjoys activities with children at the center.

You’ve probably heard some variation of the proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Judy Ford, program director at Caring Heart, Open Arms Childcare and Development Ministry in Hobart, invited Linda Curley, Health and Human Sciences Educator at Purdue Extension – Lake County for training on keeping families fully engaged with their childcare providers.  

Curley shared the course “How to Get Parents on Your Team” at the annual staff meeting for Caring Heart, Open Arms. The training emphasizes the crucial role that family involvement plays in benefiting young children. 

And family engagement, explains Ford, isn’t what we might assume at first — inviting parents to volunteer at childcare programs and schoolsfor example — but rather, she says, working with families to ask, “What are your needs, and how can we best meet your needs?”  

Caring Heart, Open Arms had recently participated in the Advancing Family Partnerships program from Early Learning Indiana to help increase access to and the quality of early childhood programming in Indiana, and Curley’s training in family engagement was one step in that process. 

The training was extremely helpful in advancing our efforts in becoming more confident and effective in family engagement practices,” Ford says. I am so thankful that Linda’s trainings were a springboard to the mentoring we are receiving through this project.” 

She and her colleagues continue to monitor their progress using family engagement toolkit from Indiana’s Early Learning Advisory Committee and meeting with other Indiana childcare providers in the grant program to share best practices. 

Every member of this version of the village is focused on helping Indiana’s children reach their full potential. “What we’re looking for is better child outcomes by increasing the amount and quality of family engagement,” says Ford. 


Related Links

Linda Curley

Health and Human Sciences Extension

Purdue Extension – Lake County


The Efforts

A key to Indiana’s success is ensuring that our state has high-quality early education programs that prepare children for school and engage and support families. 


The Impact

Health and Human Sciences Extension Educators provide training in many areas of early childhood education and family relationships, with a focus on improving children’s skills to succeed in kindergarten and beyond. Fun, hands-on sessions for parents and caregivers teach interactive shared activities. In addition, the “I Am Moving, I Am Learning” program helps caregivers of young children, from birth to age five, encourage children’s movement and healthy food choices every day. 


The Numbers

26.5% of Lake County children under 18 live in poverty. (2016 Indiana Public Data Utility) 

5,598 Lake County children receive Child Care Development Fund child care vouchers.  

450 Indiana childcare providers received monthly professional development training. 

Over 80% of providers reported using training they received in their classrooms. 


The Future

Purdue Extension will continue to expand training in early childhood education topics across the state, from facilitating family engagement, encouraging childhood nutrition and fitness, and supporting school readiness for Indiana’s children. 


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