Building a Community of Belonging – A Crucial Step in Family Engagement

Standard 1 Welcome all families


Article 1: Building a Community of Belonging – A Crucial Step in Family Engagement

As parents, we play a vital role in our children’s education, and fostering a sense of belonging within the school community is essential. The National PTA Family Engagement Standards offer six pillars of family engagement:

STANDARD 1 – Welcoming All Families

STANDARD 2 – Communicating Effectively 

STANDARD 3 – Supporting Student Success 

STANDARD 4 – Speaking Up for Every Child 

STANDARD 5 – Sharing Power 

STANDARD 6 – Collaborating With the Community.

Welcoming All Families is reached through two goals which offer practical guidance to PTA leaders and school administrators. The first goal focuses on Building a Community of Belonging, which emphasises the importance of families feeling respected, understood, and connected to the school community.

 The question parents should ask when they engage with the school and PTA is “Do we feel respected, understood, and connected?” To achieve this goal, both the school and the PTA need to focus on three objectives: learn about families in your school community, create an inclusive environment, and provide opportunities to volunteer.

Whether your school and PTA are emerging at welcoming families or excelling, there is always progress to be made. Most schools will have friendly staff welcoming new families with school information. PTA members can also volunteer to provide helpful community  information to new families. To really excel, could PTA train parent volunteers to act as mentors to new families?

Your PTA can consider how welcoming your school environment is. Could the entrances be marked with multilingual signs?  Is there a marquee that tells the community about key events at the school? Community schools may have a family resource center that can provide information in different languages. Consider also if your volunteer programs  reach out to ensure all families are offered a variety of volunteer opportunities to fit your diverse community.

To implement these strategies, schools and PTAs can adopt various practices:

  • Host mentorship programs, pairing experienced families with newcomers.
  • Establish help desks staffed by volunteers to provide information and support.
  • Ensure clear signage and multilingual welcome messages throughout the school.
  • Develop a formal volunteer program with diverse opportunities.

In our next article, we will delve into Creating an Inclusive Environment, the second goal in Welcoming All Families. Let’s work together to make our schools welcoming for all families.

Article 2: Creating an Inclusive Environment: Embracing Diversity in Our School Community

The first pillar of The National PTA’s Standards for Family-School Partnerships is Welcoming All Families. PTA-school partnerships have two goals in welcoming families:  Building a Community of Belonging and Creating an Inclusive Environment.

In the standards, “families” and “parents” are used interchangeably to refer to adults who are responsible for a student. For example, “Families from all backgrounds and neighborhoods.” Diverse families include families from all races, ethnicities, cultures, religions, family structures, and economic levels, as well as those with physical or mental challenges. 

The goal of creating an inclusive environment encourages schools and PTAs to embrace the diversity of families in the community. This work is often done through a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee. Your PTA may just be beginning to identify the barriers to participation and working to remove them, enabling families to engage fully. Your school staff may see engaging all families as their responsibility, actively fostering an inclusive environment. 

Engaging school staff and families in discussions about whether classroom materials and resources reflect the diversity of the community can foster a partnership to identify and break down barriers related to race, ethnicity, class, family structure, religion, and abilities.  

Consider also the economic obstacles. Your PTA can make a commitment to keep family events free or low-cost, ensuring accessibility for all.  Fundraising and community contributions will help your PTA to be able to offer free family and student activities.

Many families with children with disabilities may feel excluded from your school community and your PTA. Consider recruiting parents to your committee that can share their own experience and help you identify ways to support others. For some children, an invitation is not enough. They may need accommodations in place in order to participate. Something as simple as posting the label for the food items at an event can make your community more accessible to families with children with food allergies or celiac.

By actively participating in these practices, we can create an environment where every family feels valued and included. Together, let’s continue to build a school community that celebrates diversity and promotes a sense of belonging for all.