FOCUS AREA

Family Engagement & Partnership

This focus area is dedicated to equity in lead poisoning prevention. To have the greatest impact on areas of highest need – including housing and health outcomes – we must use approaches that support residents’ ability to thrive and address issues within their own communities, whilst being compensated for their work.

Family Engagement and Partnership frameworks should be embedded in all programming, strategies, and actions.

Watch a video interview with Iowa’s MCEH CoIIN Team and Iowa Parents Against Lead as they tell their story and discuss the importance of family engagement and partnership.

Create Opportunities for Participation

Action 1

Ask families to provide feedback and input.

  • Here is a survey template to customize for your program.
  • Use intentional feedback loops and processes to collect input, make system or organizational changes, and communicate the response back to the families. Here are some helpful models.
  • Involve families in quality improvement efforts and Plan-Do-Study-Act cycles (see Louisiana case study for example). Here’s a resource on the how-to’s of family partnership principles and tips for successful engagement in quality improvement projects.

Organizing focus groups is a great way to engage family members.

  • Here are some tips for focus groups
    • Follow best practices in asking family members to participate and address barriers to family participation.
    • Compensate family members for their time and expertise.
    • Use language and materials that reflect average reading levels.
    • Work with a facilitator from the community.
    • Gather information about technology and resources available to families to determine the best ways to provide feedback.
    • Be mindful of people’s privacy, especially around sensitive health information.

Outreach & Education

Action 1

Use social media.

Social media provides a promising mechanism to reach target populations with key prevention messaging and compliance information.

  • Facebook Pages & Groups 
    • Facebook is great for engaging people to participate in dialogue, share information on current events and trainings, and build networks to increase lead testing and screening rates. Lead program staff members can post regular updates on state lead poisoning prevention actions, key event notices, and links to key information portals at the Department of Health and other state agencies, local health departments, and nonprofit advocacy organizations. Here is an example Facebook page.

  • Twitter Townhalls
    • Twitter offers unique opportunities for lead program website integration as well as engagement with community members. Twitter “Townhalls” are also a great way to engage community members, specifically advocacy organizations and local service providers. Twitter Chats/Townhalls can be implemented anytime but are most effective when they coincide with social media campaigns such as Lead Poisoning Prevention Week (October) or National Healthy Homes Month (June). 

    • Tips for these events: 
      • Prepare a set of questions to be asked via twitter and participants (parents, nonprofits, local health departments, or other agencies). 
      • Respond to the questions based on their perspectives.
      • Here is a guide to hosting a Twitter townhall.

  • Some parents will be more engaged and will want to be an advocate and help spread the word to their communities. These parents can help connect other families to health department resources and programs. To explore opportunities to partner with parents, be sure to ask parents who have received health department services if they would be willing to work with the health department to help provide resources to other families in their communities. Here are some specific ways that parents can help:
    • Provide feedback on communications materials.
    • Help direct other families to available programs and assist with navigation of program enrollment.
    • Speak during health department trainings for nurse case managers or lead risk assessors, which can help provide context and motivation and share important perspective as a recipient of services.
    • Encourage participation of community ambassadors in conferences where parents can receive education and build their own capacity for advocacy and engagement with decision-makers and other families.
    • Health department and other government partners may be precluded from direct policy advocacy, but can advise local community organizations and parent advocates as they advance for policy solutions, including sharing information on current regulatory, enforcement, and service delivery resources and challenges.

Long-Term Family Engagement and Partnership

Family engagement and partnership in the creation and implementation of lead poisoning prevention and mitigation programs should be a mutually beneficial process. When community members co-create programs or materials for outreach and service delivery, it is important that program staff recognize that the time families give is valuable and that they are compensated for the work they do

  • Start any effort by building out a family engagement and partnership plan that follows best practices in approaching families and communities to be engaged in your work. 
    • Identify and design opportunities for family input, engagement and leadership at all levels of the program.  Spending the time and resources to create this plan could send a positive signal to families that their engagement is valued and welcomed. Here’s a sample planning worksheet you could use! (If you want to adapt the worksheet, contact the author at [email protected].)
    • Conduct outreach in a way that proactively addresses barriers to family engagement, such as holding events during multiple times and days in residents’ neighborhoods, providing childcare and child entertainment, and addressing transportation barriers. 
    • Involve families in continuous process improvement and program evaluation at the state and local levels. This results in higher quality of the services provided, builds trust with residents in the community and ensures accountability to the families and communities you serve. Be transparent in how feedback is incorporated, and inform residents of changes that have been made based on their feedback.
    • Have mechanisms in place that allow for family input and feedback to reach program decision-makers in a coordinated manner so programs can be responsive to community needs in a timely manner.  Program leadership should communicate any decisions to program recipients and community members to show that the community’s needs are considered and valued.  
    • Continually evaluate family engagement efforts with your family partners over time to refine and improve your strategies. Here are some resources for staff/organizations, agencies, and systems.
    • Here are additional tips for building your plan!

  • Invest the time, resources and commitment to developing the leadership skills of family and community members to prepare them to be engaged in lead poisoning prevention and systems improvement work.
    • Family members should be given an opportunity to participate in shaping your program through a leadership team or advisory board that plays an active role in the high-level decisions in your program that impact their community. Resources for families taking on a leadership or advisory role can be found here.
    • Provide training and resources on effective ways for families to share their stories. Resources around framing a story to enact change for a public health issue can be found here.
    • Encourage families to get involved in advocacy so their voices are heard in the process of shaping policies and programs. Include training on how to: approach the advocacy process, organize fellow community members, research policy makers, understand the different opinions behind an issue, and argue your case effectively. While state lead programs may not be able to engage in this directly, local and statewide advocacy groups can help build this capacity.  As much as possible, be transparent about challenges and barriers that advocacy groups can help overcome.  Here’s an example of the power of parent advocacy from Michigan’s Parents for Healthy Homes.

  • Strategically educate residents and potential members of our workforce to ensure that society’s monetary gain from reducing lead poisoning can be reinvested back into the communities that for decades have been disproportionately impacted by lead poisoning. For example:
    • Support bilingual training programs that encourage residents to earn jobs in healthy housing and lead remediation.  
    • Work with non-profit service providers that train and hire residents from communities impacted by lead to perform hazard reduction work and weatherize homes. 
      • For example, GHHI partners with the Rhode Island Builders Association to provide training and support to the Latino Advisory Board, which serves Spanish-speaking housing contractors in Rhode Island who provide critical healthy homes services. 
      • In Tennessee, the Shelby County Office of Resilience and Sustainability partners with GHHI and other community-based organizations to recruit, train and employ Memphis residents to provide comprehensive healthy homes assessments and services through the Master Home Environmentalist program.