Reach Out and Engage Mentee’s Family

Families need to be nurtured as key partners in this work. The key to success is approaching without judgment, and assuming that the caregivers and parents want what’s best for their children. Families need to know that a mentor shares their goal for their student’s success and is there to help.

Especially for our youngest students, connecting to families early in the process is extremely important for building a relationship. Ideally, this would occur soon after the school has already notified the family that their child has been chosen for the success mentor program in writing and/or through a phone call. Prior to making contact with the family, be sure to learn about the family especially with whom does the child live, how far do they travel to get to school, and if they come from a particular cultural or linguistic background. School staff or the mentee can often provide some of this information. If the mentor does not speak the home language of the family, arrange for another adult – perhaps a staff member, community partner or another parent – to help with translation. Avoid using children to translate for their parents since that can create challenging family dynamics.

Make personal introductions. Success mentors can use a variety of approaches to initially meet the parents:

  • Send home with the mentee a photo, along with a letter of introduction that includes contact information for the mentor.

  • Make a phone call home.

  • Introduce themselves to parents as they drop off or pick up the child from school. If the mentor doesn’t know the parent, someone on staff who already knows the family could make introductions.

Mentors should keep the initial phone call or meeting short, positive and friendly. Share who they are, offer a positive observation about the child and information about the success mentor program. Provide information about how the family can contact them if they have any questions or concerns.

  • Follow-up with Positive Contacts and Additional Resources

    Within a week or two of meeting the parent or family for the first time, the success mentor should find an opportunity to have a second positive contact with the family. They can call to compliment the family for getting the child to school on a particular day or share some other positive observation about the child and his attendance behavior, or alert the family to an upcoming back to school event that they and their child would enjoy.
    As the year continues, the success mentor should continue to reach out to the family, letting them know about their child’s progress and recognizing the family for the role it plays in improving their child’s attendance.
    The success mentor can share with the family available resources that might help to support improved attendance as the relationship progresses. Mentors could encourage families to fill out the Student Success Plan to identify strategies that support their child’s good attendance. Parents can also fill out My Family’s Help Bank and identify family members, neighbors or others who could help get their child to school.

  • Reinforce School Attendance Messaging and Programming

    The success mentor can also help ensure that families of chronically absent students are aware of resources and materials that help them understand why attendance matters and what they can do to avoid absences adding up. These are described in more depth in Whole School Family Engagement and Attendance Messaging.

  • Reach out for help if needed to connect with the family

    If a mentor is having difficulty making contact, encourage him or her to ask the ask the school’s site director that oversees the success mentor program for help in identifying a member of the school staff who seems to have established a friendly relationship with the family. If the family comes from a different cultural or language background, the school can contact a community partner for assistance.
    Mentors should keep in mind that that the experiences that parents have had with school can affect attendance. Perhaps a student’s parent was belittled or marginalized in school as a child, or perhaps they have been criticized as a parent by the school administration. These experiences can have a marked effect on parents’ feelings about conversations about attendance.

Encourage Back Up Planning

One way to help improve attendance is to encourage families to think about their back up plans for getting to school even when challenges come up. Consider inviting families to use this tool: My Family's Help Bank