The Family Center in Concord School District (CSD) is a district-wide early child development program focused on strengthening the home-school connection for Concord families with young children. With a boost from Safe Schools/Healthy Students (SS/HS) funds, the program has expanded to four Concord locations.
The Family Center provides exposure to school for young children while family members learn about child development and education. Young children experience the flow of daily activities –including free-play time, arts and crafts, and a sensory table – and learn school expectations like following instructions and taking turns. Absorbing these routines helps kids make the transition to kindergarten. At the same time, family members are able to connect with other families, learn about community resources like Early Head Start, and get information on topics such as early brain development. “Then we ring the bell and clean up together; wash, eat snack, read books, sing songs; and have some outdoor play to end the day,” describes a facilitator.
“It’s been very successful. Once a week, more than 20 families attend preschool with their children at each of the locations,”
reports a staff member. “Everyone benefits; families and kids participate in key learning
opportunities and the school connects with families.” – Concord School District Staff Member
Center staff created a new parent group to focus on school expectations with New American families after elementary schools experienced disconnection with them after fall conferences. A facilitator reports, “If we have a relationship with parents, then we can work together.” Now they meet monthly for discussions and activities like visiting local farms, orchards, and the public library.
An unintended outcome of expansion was the launch of a new group focusing on needs and challenges of New American families, some of whom are refugees with significant trauma in their backgrounds. Trusting relationships have been forged, and families are comfortable communicating what they need to support kids and gain a better understanding of school culture. These relationships offer opportunities for families to inform and improve the Center’s work. One Early Childhood Coordinator explains, “Our goal is continued expansion, because the Center offers a natural vehicle for learning and coming together, which makes a lot of sense to families from other cultures, where parents, grandparents, and the community are all involved.”
Convening families, the District, and community organizations created: 1) opportunities for families to learn, enjoy community, and relieve confusion and isolation; and 2) enhanced collaboration of Concord community organizations, including Head Start, Riverbend Community Mental Health Center, Community Bridges, WIC, and City of Concord agencies.