There are many reasons why families aren’t engaged but there are far more reasons why they are. We are all aware of the many issues schools have with parents and the effects of their lack of engagement within the scholars success. It’s unfortunate that we have to repair, heal and rebuild families while still having to work, live and provide for them. One of the challenges I’ve encountered while doing the work of family and community engagement for the District are the restrictions with Title I. Title I dollars are often set aside for resources and assistance with building capacity. A lot of the capacity building consists of day or after care, transportation, food and even some shelter for families to participate. However, many schools receive a no or unallowable back from their Title I Departments. Many of the school districts opt out of what the State may deem as allowable but not required. This why the support for the work and the lack of investment from school Districts in general funds is being invested here. Federal funding programs such as Title I have been around for years in efforts to fix decade long problems with equity and equality in education. The notion of Title I effectively helping schools to turn around the achievement gap isn’t something that just hasn’t happened. We keep giving the same entities a seat of the table when it comes to fixing problems that they help create as opposed to bringing people to the table who can help fix the problem. Title I Part A focuses on ensuring that parents and stakeholders have a seat at the table in school improvement planning, but the accountability around ensuring this takes place is weak. It also in some aspects helps the problem it seeks to assist.
Khadijah Roque, Family & Community Engagement Manager for Latin College Prep keeps finding a way and providing hope for the families she serves. She’s learned how to exceed the expectations of Title I while ensuring her families are support. It takes time and a lot of investment. Sometimes sacrifices bringing your family every step of the way. It’s important for everyone doing this work to feel included and to have balance. As a native of Los Angeles, CA., Ms. Roque was born into a family of social activists, educators and professionals. She knew early in life that her career would be around social work. Upon moving to Atlanta to attend college, she became actively involved in the black social scene where she worked for historical institutions in the African-American community and engaged with prominent Atlanta social activists. She is the founder of O MO WE NI BookClub and Simply Zuri Jewelry as well as co-founder of Pain Brings Purpose – A Domestic Violence Advocacy organization. She is also a proud mother of four children.Having all the children I have worked with throughout the years still call me “MA!” and looking for me to be apart of their lives. Her educational mission to empower young ladies to know their worth and own it. To encourage families to seek counseling and recognize their struggles in order to improve life for future generations.
Her message to Educators about the importance of engaging Black & Brown families:
“You were once that child who sat in that seat, whose family was busy making ends meet to support your dream. You were once that timid child, who wanted to succeed but didn’t know how. You were once that loud boy who needed validation and a connection with someone in school to make you feel wanted.
We all needed that one person to bridge the gap between home and school. We believe that family and community engagement are essential keys to the success of the students. Schools succeed when families believe!”
Check out Ms. Roque’s perspective below on the following questions:
- Is there a difference in engagement between Black & Brown families?
The root of engagement is interest, dedication and caring for the community in which you seek to service. If one possesses these characteristics, they will not find differences in engaging black/brown families. Our families of color deserve to be informed about resources to improve their living, social, financial, psychological/emotional well-being. Both families of African decent and families of Latino descent have been marginalized in the American society; hence, the need to engage them more frequently and wholeheartedly to create a more informed society.
- What are the barriers and challenges for both?
Often our brown families have a language barrier that can make making contact a tad bit difficult. However, once contact is made, families tend to be readily open to receive information and take advantage of community resources to improve their family’s lives. For both families of African and Latino descent, there can be a cultural barrier that prevents families for seeking and accepting assistance. That’s where reliability and a genuine spirit comes into play. The more families can trust you, the greater your ability to engage them becomes.
- Do school leaders, faculty and staff truly understand the work of engaging families?
Quickest answer: NO! Academic society has placed all of the work onto one person to engage families. Often times teachers and administrators believe families are a burden on society and the school system and treat them as such. Patience is key when engaging families due to the vast experiences of families. That’s why I came up with the Four Agreements between School and Families.