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Understanding and Working with Families

“Culturally responsive services are those attuned to families’ priorities, values, and routines.”

—From Developing Cross-Cultural Competence, Fourth Edition, edited by Eleanor W. Lynch & Marci J. Hanson

Parents and other family members are a child’s very first teachers, and they’re experts on their child’s strengths and needs. Effective early childhood programs skillfully engage diverse families as true partners, with knowledge of and sensitivity to their cultural backgrounds, beliefs, values, and goals.

The resources on this page will give you practical strategies for understanding and supporting culturally and linguistically diverse families and making the most of their expertise.

Articles and other online resources:

10 Tips for Culturally Responsive Planning Meetings with Families (Brookes)
Use these strategies to partner effectively with diverse families before and during IEP and IFSP planning meetings.

Getting to Know Each Family (Brookes)
Excerpted from the book Understanding Families, these questions will help you learn about each family’s customs, child-rearing practices, and more.

Working with Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Families (RTI Action Network)
Deepen your understanding of what cultural competence is, why it’s important, and how to develop collaborative relationships with diverse families.

Working Effectively with Families From Diverse Cultures (PACER Center)
In this video, hear from several multicultural advocates who share their approaches to working with families from diverse cultural backgrounds within the special education system.

Valuing Diversity: Developing a Deeper Understanding of All Young Children’s Behavior (NAEYC)
Explore the importance of understanding a family’s cultural diversity, and how a child’s cultural background can shape behavior.

Multicultural Principles for Early Childhood Leaders (Head Start ECLKC)
These 10 multicultural principles for early childhood leaders can help you ensure that your program is effectively supporting the needs of the culturally diverse families they serve.

Best Practices in Engaging Diverse Families (Hanover Research)
Examining literature and case studies, this report outlines best practices for engaging and supporting the needs of culturally diverse children and families.

Collaborating with Families of Diverse Backgrounds (Presence Learning)
Dr. Barry Prizant provides tips and advice you can use to develop strong collaborative relationships with families of diverse backgrounds.

What Does it Mean to be Culturally Competent (ACECQA)
Get a better understanding of what cultural competence is and how it can help you support the diverse children and families you serve.

What Does it Mean to be Culturally Competent (ACECQA)
Get a better understanding of what cultural competence is and how it can help you support the diverse children and families you serve.

Six Steps to Partner with Diverse Families (NAESP)
From forging trust to embracing a strengths-based perspective, these 6 steps can help you refine your practices to better support diverse children and families.

How Can We Prepare Teachers to Work with Culturally Diverse Students and Their Families? (Global Family Research Project)
Educators and professionals weigh in on how teachers can be better prepared to work with increasingly diverse student populations.

Recommended for you:

Developing Cross-Cultural Competence

The gold-standard text on cross-cultural competence! Keep it at your fingertips for a primer on cultural competence, nuanced explorations of different cultural backgrounds, and concrete recommendations for providing effective and culturally competent services to children and families.

Learn more »

Using Skilled Dialogue to Transform Challenging Interactions

Ensure positive, respectful interactions with diverse children and families with the proven Skilled Dialogue model. Get an in-depth primer on the filed-tested Skilled Dialogue approach and then learn how to apply it to challenging interactions of all types.

Learn more »

Using Skilled Dialogue to Transform Challenging Interactions

A must for every professional who works with young children and families, this book will help readers change the way they think about behavior—and resolve challenges in ways that honor diverse cultures and perspectives.

Learn more »

Cultural Reciprocity in Special Education

Filled with case studies, anecdotes, and practical guidance, this accessible text on cultural reciprocity will help teachers examine their own cultural identities, sidestep stereotypes, conduct skillful and sensitive cross-cultural communication, and more.

Learn more »

Understanding Families: Supportive Approaches to Diversity, Disability, and Risk, Second Edition

With a strong emphasis on family resilience, this book gets preservice and in-service professionals ready to work with a broad range of diverse families, communicate and collaborate effectively, address risk factors, match services and supports with each family’s desired outcomes, and more.

Learn more »

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