Strategy 4: Connect with Families

Once you have taken stock of what you know and what resources are available, determine an effective strategy for engaging the student and family. If you don’t have a strong relationship to the family, consider consulting with a school staff member who has past experiencing working with the family, ideally with positive results, to identify is the best way to connect. If the student is new to your school because they are in the juvenile justice system or foster care, or for any other reason, consider connecting with staff at their prior school to find out what strategies were successful for the student in that setting.

Recent research conducted by the Ad Council for the Attorney General of California found that threatening messages or simply sending impersonal letters home are not effective strategies for reaching out to students and families who struggle with attendance. Rather, the best approaches are highly personalized and build upon the hopes and dreams families have for their children to succeed.

Effective Practices for Reaching Out include
  • Personal calls home to express concern and check in to offer support (ideally the call also includes at least one positive comment about a student).

  • Meet with the student and parents in their home or a comfortable community location to establish contact, learn more about the student and family, including the attendance barriers they face. (Keep in mind that this approach is different from and not a substitute for the home visits described earlier.) Shifting the location of the meeting to the home or community can make it easier for the family to participate and make it easier for school staff to learn about the family and their situation.

  • Leveraging any meetings already planned in the near future that could offer an opportunity to connect to the family. This could include upcoming parent-teacher conferences, IEP meetings, Student Success Team meetings, child and family team or multidisciplinary meetings for system-involved students, or any other regularly scheduled or structured meetings. The idea is to piggyback on what already exists and ensure efforts to support the student and their family are coordinated and aligned.
  • Meetings with non-parent Education Decision Makers, such as foster parents, Education Surrogates or group home coordinators, may be difficult to secure. When this is the case, it’s essential to find other means to connect with those Education Decision Makers as well as any other caregivers living with the student. In all cases, the Education Decision Maker is the primary point of contact for school decisions.
  • Encourage students and families to create or strengthen their student attendance success plans that reflect their own commitments and strategies for reducing absences.