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date: 14 July 2020

Involving Parents in Schools

Abstract and Keywords

Parent involvement is a broad, multidimensional term that refers to parental attitudes, expectations, and behaviors related to their child’s learning and healthy development. Parent involvement in schools is linked to numerous positive outcomes for youth, teachers, and schools and is critical to school improvement; however a number of barriers often prevent parents from becoming fully involved with schools. Several models exist that provide key strategies to enhance parent and family involvement. This article defines parent involvement, explores an expanded view of parent involvement, describes common barriers, and outlines key strategies to enhance parent involvement. Possible implications for social work practice are also provided.

Keywords: parent involvement, family engagement, school–family–community partnerships, parent empowerment, school social work practice


Parents and families are among the most important influences and determinants of children’s learning and healthy development; therefore involving parents in schools is critical to improving academic outcomes for youth. The emphasis on parent and family involvement in school is supported from a number of perspectives (Rodriguez, Blatz, & Elbaum, 2014). Decades of research demonstrate that parent involvement in schools improves school readiness, student academic achievement, and graduation rates (Weiss, Lopez, & Rosenberg, 2010). Further, other researchers argue that involving families is a way to promote equity (Auerbach, 2012; Riehl, 2012). Also, in the United States, federal policies require parent involvement (Sawyer, 2015). For example, both the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, 2006) and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (NCLB Act of 2001, 2006, and most recently, Every Student Succeeds Act [ESSA] of 2015) mandate that schools involve parents as partners in their children’s education (Sawyer, 2015, p. 172). Specifically, Title I of the ESEA requires districts to spend 1% of their Title I funds on family involvement activities and includes mandates and opportunities for family involvement at the local level (Mapp, 2012; Weiss et al., 2010). As a result, it is critical to identify and understand the strategies that foster strong parent involvement in schools. This entry delves into the important topic of involving parents and families in schools in the United States.


Parent Involvement

Parent involvement is a multidimensional broad term that refers to parental attitudes, expectations, and behaviors related to their child’s academic achievement such as communicating with the school or helping a child with schoolwork in the home (Grolnick & Slowiaczek, 1994; Sawyer, 2015). Parent involvement activities vary based on levels of frequency, effort, and the types of settings in which they occur (Sawyer, 2015, p. 172). For instance, parent involvement activities may occur in school-based settings (e.g., volunteering at school; attending open houses and conferences at school) or in the home (e.g., helping with homework) (Pomerantz, Moorman, & Litwak, 2007; Sawyer, 2015). Currently, there is not a uniform, agreed upon definition; however, there are a number of frameworks that organize parent involvement activities (Ratcliffe & Hunt, 2009).

For instance, in Grolnick and Slowiaczek’s (1994) framework, “parent involvement is the dedication of resources by the parent to the child within a given domain” (p. 238). Specifically, they identified three domains of parent involvement–behavioral (e.g., attendance and participation in school events, open houses, PTA meetings), personal (e.g., children’s experiences related to knowing their parents care about school), and cognitive/intellectual (e.g., exposing children to stimulating material and experiences) (Grolnick & Slowiaczek, 1994). Epstein and colleagues’ (2009) parent involvement framework is perhaps one of the most widely used and encompasses six types of parent involvement in schools: (1) parenting support and education, (2) school and home communication, (3) volunteering, (4) learning at home, (5) decision-making, and (6) collaborating with the community. Epstein and colleagues’ framework emphasizes the roles of schools, parents, and communities in developing partnerships to foster parent involvement and will be described in more detail later in the article. Based largely on this framework, the National Parent Teacher Association’s (PTA, n.d.) standards for family–school partnerships include welcoming all families into the school community, communicating effectively, supporting student success, speaking up for every child, sharing power, and collaborating with the community.

While parent involvement has been the more commonly used phrase to describe the activities in which parents and families engage in relation to a child’s education, this article would be remiss not to mention more recent and emergent terminology such as family engagement.

Family Engagement

Research and policy leaders are increasingly pointing to a need to reframe parent involvement to encompass an expanded view of the role of parents in schools (Mapp, 2012; Bunting, Drew, Lasseigne, & Anderson-Butcher, 2013). This expanded view requires a shift from seeing parents as engaging in activities to support schools (i.e., “parent involvement”) to characterizing parents as full partners to improve schools (i.e., “family engagement”) (Mapp, 2012). Family engagement also emphasizes shared responsibility, which requires a commitment from both families (to actively support student learning) and schools (to engage and partner with families) (Mapp, 2012, Weiss et al., 2010). This shared commitment begins at birth and continues to young adulthood (Mapp, 2012; Weiss et al., 2010). Family engagement is also not limited to the school setting but can occur across multiple settings where children learn (Weiss et al., 2010). Further, while parent involvement is often fragmented and not integrated into broader school improvement efforts, family engagement is comprised of coordinated, systemic strategies to school improvement (Weiss et al., 2010). Ultimately, many assert that family engagement should be a key component to improving and strengthening schools and preparing students for the 21st century (Weiss et al., 2010).


Given the breadth and depth of parent involvement activities and the lack of a clear definition, determining the prevalence of parent involvement in schools can be challenging. Recent national surveys indicate that 87% of parents reported participating in or attending a general school or parent–teacher organization or association (PTO/PTA) meeting during the 2011–2012 academic year (Noel, Stark, & Redford, 2015). Seventy-six percent of students had parents who reported attending a regularly scheduled parent–teacher conference and 74% had parents who attended a school or class event (Noel et al., 2015). Other school-based activities were reported to a lesser extent. For example, 42% of children had parents who volunteered or served on a school committee; 58% had parents who participated in school fundraising; and 33% had parents who met with a guidance counselor (Noel et al., 2015). There appear to be differences in parent involvement activities across economic and racial groups. For example, volunteering at school appears to be more commonly reported among families with a higher income (45%) compared to those in poverty (27%) (Noel et al., 2015). African American (31%) and Hispanic (28%) parents may also be less likely to volunteer at their child’s school compared to their European American counterparts (50%) (Noel et al., 2015). The survey also assessed home-based parent involvement activities. For example, 67% of children had an adult in the household who checked that their homework was done (Noel et al., 2015). Parents also reported education related activities within the previous month such as visiting a library (39%); visiting a bookstore (38%); attending a play, concert, or other live show (31%); visiting an art gallery, a museum, or a historical site (21%); or visiting a zoo or an aquarium (19%).

Although to a lesser extent, research has also examined the prevalence of parent involvement activities such as participating in school decision-making and advocacy. Overall, it appears that parents are not often engaged as partners in school improvement. For example, research suggests only a small number of parents (5%–6%) become involved in governance and advocacy (Ritblatt, Beatty, Cronan, & Ochoa, 2002). This may be due, in part, to some school staff and administrators preferring certain types of parent involvement to others. For instance, based on Ferrara’s (2009) research, some school staff and administrators may prefer parents as volunteers rather than as advocates or involved in decisions. Specifically, Ferrara (2009) found that fewer than 20% of principals found a way to include parents in the school as partners in academic programs or in school governance. In sum, many parents are involved in schools in both school-and home-based activities. However, there are disparities in the levels of involvement for diverse parents and possible school preferences for the types of involvement in which parents are expected to engage.

Benefits of Parent Involvement

Overall trends indicate that both school- and home-based parent involvement is related to positive student outcomes (Henderson & Mapp, 2002). Specifically, parent involvement in schools has been linked to improved attendance, improved grades, increased motivation for school, enhanced performance on proficiency tests, improved literacy, and homework completion (Cancio, West, & Young, 2004; Dearing, Simpkins, Kreider, & Weiss, 2006; Dearing, McCartney, Weiss, Kreider, & Simpkins, 2004; Egbert & Salsbury, 2009; Gutman & Midgley, 2000; Izzo, Weissberg, Kasprow, & Fendrich, 1999; Patall, Cooper, & Robinson, 2008; Senechal & LeFevre, 2002; Sheldon, 2003). Parent involvement also accounts for other outcomes such as increased graduation rates (Astone & McLanahan, 1991; Englund, Egeland, & Collins, 2008), lower dropout rates (Rumberger, 1995), and fewer grade retentions and fewer special education placements (Miedel & Reynolds, 1999). The academic benefits are apparent among diverse student groups as well as across the educational pipeline (Dearing et al., 2006; Jeynes, 2003; Hawes & Plourde, 2005). Of note, it is difficult to discern which aspects of parent involvement have the greatest impact on youth academic outcomes (Jeynes, 2003). Though some researchers have reviewed which forms of parent involvement (i.e., school-based, home-based) are particularly beneficial (Pomerantz et al., 2007). A review by Pomerantz and colleagues suggests that school-based involvement appears to have a more consistent positive impact than home-based parent involvement.

Parent involvement also may impact students’ behavior and emotional well-being. Research shows that parent involvement may improve students’ behaviors and social skills by reducing students’ disruptive behavior (Kratochwill, McDonald, Levin, Bear-Tibbetts, & Demaray, 2004) and supporting social competencies (Hill et al., 2004; McWayne, Hampton, Fantuzzo, Cohen, & Sekino, 2004) and self-regulation (Brody, Flor, & Gibson, 1999). Parent involvement may also improve classroom behavior and emotional well-being of elementary school students (Nokali, Bachman, & Votruba-Drzal, 2010).

The benefits are not limited to students, however. Greater parental involvement increases teacher efficacy (Garcia, 2004). Positive parent–teacher interactions have been found to positively affect teachers’ self-perception and job satisfaction (Tschannen-Moran & Hoy, 2007). Parent involvement may also be a key component to improving low-performing schools. A Chicago study of low-performing elementary schools identified parent, school, and community ties as one of the essential supports (among leadership, instructional guidance, teacher professional capacity, and school climate) to transform low-performing schools (Bryk, Sebring, Allensworth, Luppescu, & Easton, 2009, as cited in Weiss et al., 2010). Parents also may benefit. For example, parent involvement may empower minority parents by helping them collectively voice their opinions to effect change (Abdul-Adil & Farmer, 2006).

In summary, evidence-based research demonstrates the link between various types of parent involvement activities and positive outcomes for youth, parents, teachers, and schools. Policy further reinforces its importance by holding educators responsible for involving parents in schools. However, there are a number of barriers to consider when involving parents in schools.

Common Barriers to Parent Involvement

While parents from all backgrounds desire to be involved in their child’s education (McKay & Stone, 2000) and teachers and school personnel recognize the many benefits, the current research points to a number of barriers that inhibit parent involvement. Identifying and addressing the barriers is key to working successfully with parents and families in schools.

School Personnel Perceptions about Parents and Parent Roles

A common barrier relates to teacher and school personnel beliefs and assumptions about parents and their roles (Anderson-Butcher et al., 2004). Teachers and other school staff often have the perception that minority parents in low-income communities do not want to be involved in their child’s education (Dauber & Epstein, 1993; De Gaetano, 2007; Epstein & Dauber, 1991; Garcia & Guerra, 2004). Unfortunately, such negative assumptions about parents, particularly in inner city schools, are commonplace (Bloom, 2001). Further, school personnel may have had negative past experiences with families and may possess limited knowledge about effective and meaningful practices for partnering with families (Anderson-Butcher et al., 2004). Teachers may also have a negative attitude toward collaboration with parents (Baum & Swick, 2008). Such assumptions, beliefs, and attitudes then influence patterns for interacting with parents, which can result in “off-putting” interactions (Souto-Manning & Swick, 2006; Sawyer, 2015, p. 173). Research also suggests a possible mismatch between school personnel’s strong attitudes and beliefs about the importance of parent involvement compared with their actual behaviors, further suggesting the need for training on effective strategies to engage families (Barnyak & McNelly, 2009).

Limited View of Parent Involvement Activities

Further, a narrow, limited view of what activities constitute parent involvement may also serve as a barrier (Anderson-Butcher et al., 2004). For example, often parents are viewed as volunteers who can support the school. A qualitative study by Christianakis (2011) examined how inner-city elementary school teachers perceive parents and parental involvement. Her study indicated that teachers often perceived parents as “help labor” at home and school to achieve the school’s goals as opposed to working with them as partners (e.g., involving them in planning, decision-making, or school leadership) (Christianakis, 2011). Parents who have the time to provide this assistance are “helpful,” whereas those who do not or cannot are perceived more negatively (Christianakis, 2011). Further, the one-way interaction assumes parents have the skills, time, energy, and abilities to be involved in schools (Anderson-Butcher et al., 2004). This perception of parent involvement works for certain parents but neglects the needs of many parents, especially those from low-income communities, who may want to be involved but have difficulty overcoming obstacles to involvement. Examples of common obstacles include long work hours, holding multiple jobs, limited educational levels, other familial responsibilities, and lack of transportation (Anderson-Butcher et al., 2004; Pena, 2000; Smalley & Reyes-Blanes, 2001; Waanders, Mendez, & Downer, 2007; Bunting et al., 2013). Support from school personnel is critical to overcoming such obstacles. Further, diverse parents may struggle to interact with schools in conventional ways; however, they may engage in school involvement behaviors that the school does not see or recognize, such as attending events related to children’s education in social networks outside the school (Poza, Brooks, & Valdes, 2014).

Cultural Differences and Parents’ Past Experiences

Language, culture, and past experiences may present unique challenges to building parent–teacher relationships that facilitate parent involvement. While the student population has become increasingly diverse, the teaching population remains largely static (Carlisle, Stanley, & Kemple, 2005; deFur, 2012). This may lead to cultural and ethnic differences, particularly in relation to the expectations of teacher and parent roles in a child’s education (Sawyer, 2015). Educational and cultural differences may also hinder easy and effective communication between parents and school personnel (Deslandes & Bertrand, 2005; Ratcliffe & Hunt, 2009; Sawyer, 2015). For example, Latino parents may believe the teacher is responsible for initiating communication while teachers may expect parents to make the first contact (Ramirez, 2000). Further, the language used at home may differ from the language used at school, and schools may not have the resources to translate school materials (Anderson-Butcher et al., 2004). Subsequently, despite a desire to be involved, parents may experience a reluctance to engage in their children’s school-related activities (Sawyer, 2015). This reluctance may stem from negative personal experiences with schools or teachers and a fear of failure or feelings of inadequacy for helping children with schoolwork (Anderson-Butcher et al., 2004; Sawyer, 2015). Trust and understanding between parents and teachers is therefore needed (Wong & Hughes, 2006). Establishing trust requires teachers to set aside their own biases, cultural norms, and beliefs (deFur, 2012) and consider how and why diverse parents may come to feel alienated and unwelcome in schools (Cooper & Christie, 2005; Lawson, 2003).

The barriers described here represent opportunities to improve and enhance parent involvement in schools. Ultimately, parents have many strengths and assets that they can bring to the table to boost their children’s academic achievement and their unique contributions should be recognized. Fortunately, frameworks exist to provide guidance for parents, schools, and communities to promote parent involvement.

Frameworks to Involve Parents in Schools

A number of frameworks exist to help guide planning and implementation of parent involvement in schools. Some frameworks focus on engaging specific populations, such as schools in high-poverty communities (Lawson & Briar-Lawson, 1997), Latino families (Delgado-Gaitan, 1992), or urban, low-income African American parents (Abdul-Adil & Farmer, 2006). This section will describe the components of (1) the Harvard Family Research Project’s family, school, and community engagement, (2) Epstein and colleagues’ school-family-community partnerships model, and (3) parent empowerment strategies. The strategies and important contributions of each framework are discussed.

Family, School, and Community Engagement (FSCE)

Researchers from the Harvard Family Research Project (2009) have produced numerous reports and briefs on the topic of family engagement in school. Their work centers on the core school district-level components necessary for systemic family engagement. These components include fostering district-wide strategies, building school capacity, and reaching out to and engaging families (Westmoreland, Rosenberg, Lopez, & Weiss, 2009). Based on the experiences of six school districts, Westmoreland and colleagues (2009) found that implementing these three core components requires a commitment to a set of best practices. These best practices included (1) a shared vision of family engagement, (2) purposeful connections to learning, (3) investments in high-quality programming and staff, (4) robust communication systems, and (5) evaluation for accountability and continuous learning (Westmoreland et al., 2009, p. 2–3).

Westmoreland and colleagues (2009) also provided important policy implications. Federal and state policies should provide a clear definition and framework for family engagement and coordination and alignment of programs. Capacity building should also be supported with well-designed and high-quality training and technical assistance in the development, implementation, and evaluation of initiatives. Capacity building includes preservice teachers who are already beginning to form perceptions about what type of parent will be involved in their child’s school (Ferrara, 2009), so training for teachers on how to work with parents is critical (Delgado-Gaitan, 1991). This professional development can continue with in-service teachers. This is particularly important, as teachers with a higher sense of the importance of parent involvement create classroom environments that provide substantial opportunities for parent involvement activities, which in turn makes parents more likely to become involved in school (Hoover-Dempsey & Sandler, 1997). Further, as part of the continuous improvement process, there should be a mechanism for sharing resources and opportunities to create new practices and disseminate information on what works (e.g., clearinghouse of best practices). Districts and schools should also be supported in accountability efforts that ensure strategies are not only implemented but are having an impact (Westmoreland et al., 2009). In summary, their work highlights the importance of state and federal policies as well as developing school district leadership and school-level capacity to implement and sustain effective parent involvement strategies.

School–Family–Community Partnership Model

Epstein and colleagues’ (2009) school–family–community partnership model illustrates the ways in which all three entities work together to “engage, guide, energize, and motivate students to produce their own success” (p. 10). Epstein and colleagues describe schools, families, and communities as “overlapping spheres of influence” with students at the center playing an active role in their education and development (Epstein et al., 2009, p. 10).

To help schools develop comprehensive partnership programs that involve all entities, Epstein and colleagues’ (2009) framework includes six types of parent involvement: parenting, communicating, volunteering, learning at home, decision-making, and collaborating with the community. Parenting involves helping all families to establish home environments that support learning at each grade level. This type of parent involvement centers on providing support and education to strengthen families. Strategies may include parent education and other courses or training for parents such as GED or family literacy, as well as family support programs to assist families with health, nutrition, and other services (Epstein et al., 2009). Communicating consists of designing effective forms of school-to-home and home-to-school communications about school events and academic progress (Epstein et al., 2009). Strategies may include hosting yearly parent–teacher conferences, offering interpreter services for non-English-speaking families, and sending home weekly or monthly folders of student work for parents to review. Volunteering consists of recruiting and organizing parent help and support. Strategies to promote this type of involvement include volunteer programs, a designated parent space at school, and surveys of parents’ talents and hours of availability (Epstein et al., 2009). Learning at home involves providing information and ideas to families about how to help students at home with homework and other curriculum-related activities such as information on grade level knowledge and skills, on how to monitor and discuss schoolwork at home, and summer learning packets or activities (Epstein et al., 2009). Decision-making involves including parents in school decisions and developing parent leaders and representatives through parent organizations such as PTA/PTO, advisory councils, parent advocacy groups to lobby for school improvement, and networks to link all families with parent representatives (Epstein et al., 2009). Finally, collaborating involves identifying and integrating resources and services from the community to strengthen school programs, family practices, and student learning and development. Strategies may include information for students and families on community health, cultural, recreational, and social support, information on community activities that link to learning skills and talents including summer programs for students, and service to the community by students, families, and schools (Epstein et al., 2009).

To implement the six types of parent involvement, Epstein and colleagues (2009) recommend an Action Team for Partnerships (ATP) in each school. This team is dedicated to improving plans and practices of family and community involvement and should be a component of broader school improvement initiatives. Additional details on creating and maintaining such teams, as well as more details on developing partnerships are provided in Epstein and associates’ (2009) handbook for school, family, and community partnerships.

Parent Empowerment Strategies

Both the engagement and partnership models above emphasize reaching all parents and families. To do this, parent empowerment strategies are especially relevant (Christianakis, 2011). Delgado-Gaitain (1991) defined empowerment as, “an ongoing intentional process centered in the local community involving mutual respect, critical reflection, caring and group participation through which people lacking an equal share of valued resources gain greater access to and control over those resources” (Delgado-Gaitan, 1991, p. 23). In relation to parent involvement, some parents lack an equal amount of power and resources compared to school personnel. This is in part due to cultural differences between schools and home environments (Delgado-Gaitan, 1991). This is problematic because involvement in schools is often contingent on having certain knowledge (e.g., cultural, social) and the absence of such knowledge significantly inhibits one’s sense of power, subsequently prohibiting involvement in school (Delgado-Gaitan, 1991). Parent empowerment models then attempt to minimize this power imbalance (Fine, 1993, as cited in Christianakis, 2011).

Further, empowerment-oriented parent involvement strategies provide parents with multiple ways to be involved in creating a school environment where children can learn and grow (Christianakis, 2011). Therefore, a change in perceptions of what qualifies as parent involvement has potential to increase parent involvement since parents often become involved when they believe they can make a difference in their children’s school experiences and have a high sense of self-efficacy (Dunst & Dempsey, 2007). Also of importance, empowerment involves offering parent training and skills that help parents and families to be more involved. Schools may offer trainings, workshops, and webinars on topics of relevance to families and in some cases; parents may select the information to be covered (Sawyer, 2015). Through these opportunities, parents may develop vital skills and competencies (Anderson-Butcher et al., 2004). Empowerment-oriented strategies may also help parents overcome obstacles that prevent their involvement (Abdul-Adil & Farmer, 2006). Helping parents to meet their basic needs first through referrals, resources, and social supports is an effective way to recruit parents (Anderson-Butcher, 2006; Briar-Lawson et al., 1997; Bunting et al., 2013). Parent involvement may subsequently increase as basic needs are met (Bunting et al., 2013). Steps to recruiting parents by addressing their basic needs include assessing parent and family needs, addressing identified needs through services and supports, building relationships, viewing parents as experts, having parents as leaders, creating spaces for parents, creating meaningful and engaging activities, and fostering culturally competent practices (Bunting et al., 2013, p. 635). Finally, acknowledging and using existing strengths and resources that parents and communities possess is also critical to empowering parents (Abdul-Adil & Farmer, 2006). In the end, empowerment-based strategies enhance parent involvement in schools by starting where parents and families are, including them in multifaceted ways, and meeting critical basic needs.

Ultimately, all three frameworks provide important strategies for involving parents in schools, particularly by addressing common barriers that often preclude parent involvement. Common themes among the strategies are evident. Part of the work involves reframing parent involvement to broader, more inclusive terms such as engagement and partnerships. These words more accurately reflect the shared responsibility of schools, families, and communities (Epstein et al., 2009; Epstein & Sheldon, 2006; Westmoreland et al., 2009). Both the literature on family engagement and partnerships emphasize that involving parents in schools should be an essential component to school improvement, not an add-on feature (Epstein et al., 2009; Epstein & Sheldon, 2006; Weiss et al., 2010; Westmoreland et al., 2009). As a result, partnerships and engagement strategies should be linked with important goals for student outcomes such as attendance, achievement, and behavior (Epstein & Sheldon, 2006). Further, leadership at all levels—school, district, state—are necessary to promote engagement and partnerships (Epstein et al., 2009; Epstein & Sheldon, 2006; Westmoreland et al., 2009). Both the engagement and partnership models emphasize including all families (Epstein & Sheldon, 2006; Westmoreland et al., 2009). To do this, parent empowerment strategies highlight the ways schools may support parents and families to enhance their self-efficacy so they are prepared to fully engage and partner with schools. Of note, empowerment-oriented strategies clearly align with Epstein and colleagues’ (2009) first type of parent involvement, which focuses on parent education and support (Bunting et al., 2013).

Implications for Social Work Practice

Parent involvement is an interdisciplinary topic of inquiry involving education, sociology, psychology, and social work to name a few (Epstein et al., 2009). The work of parent involvement and family engagement aligns with the mission, values, and theoretical perspectives of the social work profession. For instance, acknowledging the important impact families have on academic achievement and empowering families so they can promote their children’s academic achievement aligns with the ecological perspective and empowerment orientation. Further, there appear to be disparities in the level of parent involvement among diverse parents and families and this could lead to disparate outcomes for children and youth. Social workers aim to eliminate such social injustices and disparities. Social workers are then prepared to help conduct the work of involving and engaging parents.

The strategies for parent involvement and family engagement points to a number of implications for school social workers as well as social workers across community agencies. School social workers can be instrumental in providing in-service training or professional development for teachers on strategies to engage parents. School social workers are also critical to linking families to needed supports in the community. School social workers may also participate in parent education by facilitating trainings and workshops that enhance parent skills and competencies (Delgado-Gaitan, 1991). Schools social workers may also work with parent liaisons or serve on action teams (Epstein et al., 2009). To demonstrate the effectiveness of parent involvement strategies, school social workers or social work researchers in the community may evaluate the impact of parent involvement and family engagement strategies implemented by a school or school district. School social workers may also write grants to fund parent involvement and family engagement work. Finally, all social workers, particularly those invested in youth outcomes, may advocate for state and federal policies as well as district-level initiatives that support parent involvement and family engagement in schools.


In the end, families care about their children and want them to be successful. Likewise, schools and teachers want to involve families in their work. Ultimately, engaging parents and families in schools moves beyond involvement and toward partnerships. However, both families and schools need help in determining the ways in which to partner with each other. Frameworks such as the school–family–community partnerships model and related strategies offer a guide to creating effective partnerships that benefit student academic outcomes. Opportunities exist for school social workers to play an important role in involving parents in school.

Further Reading

National PTA website

National Network of Partnership Schools (2015). Johns Hopkins University. Available at

Pekel, K., Roehlkepartain, E. C., Syvertsen, A. K., & Scales, P. C. (2015). Don’t forget the families: The missing piece in America’s effort to help all children succeed. Minneapolis: Search Institute.Find this resource:

U.S. Department of Education.


Abdul-Adil, J. K., & Farmer, A. D. (2006). Inner-city African American parental involvement in elementary schools: Getting beyond urban legends of apathy. School Psychology Quarterly, 21(1), 1–12.Find this resource:

Anderson-Butcher, D. (2006). Building effective family support programs and interventions. In C. Franklin, M. Harris, & P. Allen-Meares (Eds.), The school services sourcebook. New York: Oxford University Press.Find this resource:

Anderson-Butcher, D., Lawson, H., Bean, J., Boone, B., Kwiatkowski, A., Cash, S., . . . Beitzel, M. (2004). Implementation guide: The Ohio Community Collaboration Model for School Improvement. Columbus: The Ohio Department of Education.Find this resource:

Astone, N. M., & McLanahan, S. S. (1991). Family structure, parental practices and high school completion. American Sociological Review, 56(3), 309–320.Find this resource:

Auerbach, S. (2012). Why leadership for partnerships? In S. Auerbach (Ed.), School leadership for authentic family and community partnerships (pp. 3–9). New York: Routledge.Find this resource:

Barnyak, N. C. & McNelly, T. A. (2009). An urban school district’s parent involvement: A study of teachers’ and administrators’ beliefs and practices. The School Community Journal, 19(1), 33–58.Find this resource:

Baum, A. C., & Swick, K. J. (2008). Dispositions toward families and family involvement: Supporting preservice teacher development. Early Childhood Educational Journal, 35, 579–584.Find this resource:

Bloom, L. R. (2001). “I’m poor, I’m single, I’m a mom, and I deserve respect.”: Advocating in schools and with mothers in poverty. Educational Studies, 32(3), 299–316.Find this resource:

Brody, G. H., Flor, D. L., & Gibson, N. M. (1999). Linking maternal efficacy beliefs, developmental goals, parenting practices and child competence in rural single-parent African American families. Child Development, 70(5), 1197–1208.Find this resource:

Briar-Lawson, K., Lawson, H. A., Rooney, B. J., Hansen, V., White, L. G., Radina, E., & Herzog, K. L. (1997). From parent involvement to parent empowerment and family support: A resource guide for school community leaders. Oxford, OH: Institute for Educational Renewal, Miami University.Find this resource:

Bunting, H., Drew, H., Lasseigne, A., & Anderson-Butcher, D. (2013). Parent/family engagement and school social work practice. In C. Franklin & P. Allen-Meares (Eds.), School services sourcebook (2d ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.Find this resource:

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Christianakis, M. (2011). Parents as “help labor”: Inner-city teachers’ narratives of parent involvement. Teacher Education Quarterly, 38(4), 157–178.Find this resource:

Cooper, C. W. & Christie, C. (2005). Evaluating parent empowerment: A look at the potential of social justice evaluation in education. Teachers College Record, 107(10), 2248–2274.Find this resource:

Dauber, S. L., & Epstein, J. L. (1993). Parents’ attitudes and practices of involvement in inner-city elementary and middle schools. In N. F. Chavkin (Ed.), Families and schools in a pluralistic society (pp. 53–71). Albany: State University of New York Press.Find this resource:

Dearing, E., McCartney, K., Weiss, H. B., Kreider, H., & Simpkins, S. (2004). The promotive effects of family educational involvement for low-income children’s literacy. Journal of School Psychology, 42(6), 445–460.Find this resource:

Dearing, E., Simpkins, S., Kreider, H., & Weiss, H. B. (2006). Family involvement in school and low-income children’s literacy: Longitudinal associations between and within families. Journal of Educational Psychology, 98(4), 653–664.Find this resource:

deFur, S. (2012). Parents as collaborators: Building partnerships with school- and community- based providers. TEACHING Exceptional Children, 44(3), 58–67.Find this resource:

DeGaetano, Y. (2007). The role of culture in engaging Latino parents’ involvement in school. Urban Education, 42(2), 145–162.Find this resource:

Delgado-Gaitan, C. (1991). Involving parents in the schools: A process of empowerment. American Journal of Education, 100(1), 20–46.Find this resource:

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