Tips & Tools for Parent and Family Involvement

The success of the AHS program is largely due to the deep involvement by parents and families in the learning environment, and participation by Elders and community members in enriching the cultural experience. The Aboriginal Head Start community (the ‘new village’) gives children and adults a sense of belonging and identity, and provides a supportive environment for those who are living in urban centres.

“Before I came here, I was quiet and I wasn’t able to talk… and from being on the PAC and talking to the other parents, I opened up more. I had a really good experience.”
- Jessica Field: Former Parent, Power of Friendship AHS

Programs such as Aboriginal Head Start, where the goal is to restore the culture lost to colonization, are effective because they are community-based, not run by outside experts. Decision-making by these key stakeholders empowers the most important teachers of our children – the parents and extended family.

“I learned through AHS that the school cared about my child’s best interest, and then soon realized that the school wasn’t such a scary place. Then I was able to go to the public schools and speak on my oldest son’s behalf; he was later diagnosed with dyslexia. If it had not been for AHS, I don’t know if I ever would have been comfortable with staff in the public school.”
- Glenna Johnson: Family Involvement Worker and Former Parent, Kermode AHS

  • Personal contact is key to promoting parental involvement – initially through home visits, phone calls, community agencies, newsletter announcements, local Bands, Friendship Centres and Métis Organizations.

  • Orientation for new parents introduces them to AHS Guidelines and Principles, their rights and responsibilities, and opportunities to volunteer. The AHS Parent Handbook outlines procedures and routines which comforts parents by clearly setting out expectations.

  • Meeting the staff and visiting the classroom to observe the program familiarizes them with the role of family members.

  • Encourage them to take part in activities and help to create, collect and demonstrate cultural resource materials.

  • Introduce them to parents of similar backgrounds in the AHS community.

  • Offer language classes for family members to support their children’s learning.

  • Enlist their assistance in preparing for meals, feasts and celebrations.

  • Show appreciation for their modeling of cultural values and participating in cultural activities at school and at home.

  • Invite parents to share their cultural knowledge with the children and AHS community. Celebrate each family by honouring their contributions.

    “I liked being involved in the PAC meetings, to help the kids, to help learn with their learning. I try to come to every PAC meeting and I try to help out with whatever they need done here.”
    - Tania Mitchell: Parent, Singing Frog AHS

  • Parent Advisory Councils (PAC) are set up each year to involve parents in the AHS preschool program. Their participation in community activities and networking with other parents gives them opportunities to build confidence and leadership skills. This enables parents to become effective advocates for their children throughout their education.

  • Partnerships in Positive Approaches to Behaviour is a training for Early Childhood service providers delivered collaboratively by the AHS program, the Aboriginal Head Start Association of BC and Partnership Project BC. It focuses on understanding behaviour and developing Positive Behaviour Support with parents. For more info, go to Partnerships Project.

  • Seeds of Empathy is a program that provides children and adults with opportunities to learn social, emotional and literacy skills. Many AHS sites have participated in this training. Read more at Other Training Opportunities.

  • Parents in Aboriginal Head Start: Building community is a guidebook written by Rose Sones in 2002 about involving parents in the AHS program. Along with other books and videos for Aboriginal parents, it is available from the BC First Nations Head Start website.

  • Bringing Tradition Home: Aboriginal Parenting in Today’s World is one of many workshops offered by BC Aboriginal Child Care Society. Go to:

  • Aboriginal Supported Child Development in BC (ASCD) provides culturally appropriate support services to children with special needs. Services are provided in child care centres or home and community environments. Developed and run by local Aboriginal communities, programs are culturally responsive to their community.

  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) impacts the lives of children, parents and families, and the whole community. Here are some online tools developed recently by MCFD to boost FASD awareness in BC.

“It’s been fascinating to learn what role Head Start plays in the community; it’s not just about the children… its a ‘hub’ for families. Families with children who aren’t in Head Start yet, and families with children who have been in Head Start.”
- Robin Reid: Program Consultant, BC Region, Public Health Agency of Canada