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The Value of Family Engagement: Identifying Unique Needs and Priorities of Families with Children Who Are Deaf-Blind

Deaf-Blind Network Definition of Family Engagement

Families are the guiding force behind all life decisions for a family member who is deaf-blind. Their unique lived experiences drive our shared responsibility to the goals they choose for themselves and their loved one. 

Family engagement is helping families find and elevate their voice while feeling a sense of belonging in their community. Family engagement is the genuine relationships in and outside the family, “the systematic inclusion of families in activities and programs that promote children’s development, learning, and wellness, including in the planning, development, and evaluation of such activities, programs, and systems” (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Education, 2016, p. 1).

Family engagement promotes sharing resources with and among families, promotes equity and inclusiveness while remaining responsive to families’ cultures and languages, and honors each family’s dynamics, beliefs, values, and priorities. Connecting all family members within the deaf-blind community and their communities of choice increases belonging and empowers them to plan and enjoy their lives.

“Promoting enriching learning activities in the classroom and in the home, facilitated by all of the adults in children’s lives, contributes to children’s learning and developmental outcomes and is a central component of effective family engagement” (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Education, 2016, p. 3).

The Value of Family Engagement as Defined by Federal Policy

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Education (2016) released a policy statement on family engagement which affirmed that "Families are children’s first and most important teachers, advocates, and nurturers. Strong family engagement and programs is central—not supplemental—to promoting children’s healthy intellectual, physical, and social-emotional development; preparing children for school; and supporting academic achievement in elementary school and beyond” (p. 1).  Likewise, policies in five additional grants and acts (Head Start Act;  Child Care and Development Block Grant;  Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Public Health Services Act; Individuals with Disabilities Education Act; Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015) affirm that when families are engaged and empowered in the education of their child, better outcomes are achieved.