ECFE 2.0

Project #3: ECFE 2019-2024 Enhancement Priorities


In 2012, the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) began a project to identify needs among ECFE programs. During this time, programs were surveyed, meetings were held, and stakeholders were convened. As a result of this work, and work within Early Learning Services at MDE, a five-year plan was created to help guide ECFE work over the next five years.
In 2018, the process of revising the 2014-19 plan started. Two main objectives guided the revision: 1. Focus the plan by reducing the total number of goals and 2. Elaborate on strategies by adding actions.

The tabs in this section include:

  1. The Goal
  2. Introduction (introduces the goal and why it is important)
  3. Guiding Principles (identifies some principles that guide our work)
  4. Strategies (lists potential strategies to achieve our goals)
  5. Actions (lists activities and actions planned or implemented to achieve goals)

Project #2: Comprehensive, Authentic Family Engagement (CAFE)


The mission of the Comprehensive, Authentic Family Engagement (CAFE) group is to provide leadership and support to Minnesota school districts and communities so that they implement comprehensive, authentic family engagement systems that focus on meeting the diverse needs of families and their children.

Project #1: ECFE 2014-2019 Enhancement Areas

CLICK HERE for document


The purpose of ECFE 2.0 is to examine ways of enhancing ECFE programs. The group will provide advice, feedback and guidance regarding general and specific strategies for enhancing programming and services.

ECFE Structure and Focus

1. Focus on Parent and Family Education, the Purpose of ECFE, and Work to Advance the Practice of Parenting Education


  • Learning about parenting is a universal need.
  • Parents and caregivers need knowledge, skills and support to effectively raise children.
  • Parents and caregivers seek information about parenting from friends, family, neighbors, books, experts, medical providers, etc.
  • Parents and caregivers of young children, regardless of life circumstance, can benefit from education and support in their role as parents.
  • Schools are more effective in educating children when parents/families are involved and engaged.
  • If parents/families are involved in their children’s early education and development, they are more likely to continue their involvement in subsequent years.


  • Stress to programs the purpose of ECFE: “The purpose of the early childhood family education program is to provide parenting education to support children's learning and development” (Minnesota Statutes, section 124D.13, subdivision 1).
  • Define and create common understandings on core definitions like parenting education, family education, family engagement, family involvement, etc.
  • Identify and work with programs and organizations that provide parent and family education.
  • Focus on pre-service and professional development. Build parent education capacity statewide.
  • Reestablish the Parent Education Institute in order to provide relevant, high-quality professional development.

2. Establish ECFE as the Central Program in P-3 Systems

ECFE is uniquely positioned because it is a dual-generation program that works with families in a variety of contexts. Since ECFE works with and builds relationships with families (sometimes before birth), parent and family educators are able to work with families over a number of years through a number of transitions.


  • Early childhood programs are often parents and families’ first experience with the school district.
  • ECFE focuses on building and sustaining positive relationships with children, parents and families.
  • Trust is built when children and families have positive, rewarding experiences in early childhood programs.
  • Learning opportunities and experiences are maximized when they occur in aligned, coherent systems.
  • Family engagement over the lifespan is an essential element to a child’s growth, development and success in life.
  • Parents and families experience changes, new developmental tasks and new responsibilities throughout time.


  • Provide guidance on how ECFE fits into the broader picture, not only within Community Education and K-12 but also within state and community.
  • Ensure ECFE plays a significant role with family engagement and involvement efforts.
  • Provide guidance on the parent education transition program legislation.
  • Encourage programming that involves parents and families through time.
  • Examine alignment between ECFE and teacher preparation programs.
  • Include information about ECFE’s potential role in the World’s Best Work Force legislation.

3. Position ECFE as a Hub for Early Learning and Family Services, Connecting Schools and Communities

ECFE is 40 years old and is a part of almost every school district in Minnesota. Importantly, this means that an infrastructure currently exists.


  • The fields of parenting and family life education are much larger than ECFE.
  • Since many programs, organizations and occupations provide some type of parenting education, ECFE should work to collaborate, support and align with others offering parenting education.
  • Parenting educators in a school district are in an especially unique role to help meet the challenges of families and education in the 21st Century.
  • Since ECFE is a dual-generation program, and a part of the school district and Community Education, it is in a position where it can connect parents and families to other services and resources.


  • Expand the meaning of family education to include family systems issues and topics beyond the parent-child dyad.
  • Describe advantages of an expanded role for ECFE.
  • Promote the message that high-quality child care/early childhood education must include parent and family education.
  • Ensure that parent and family educators have more flexibility to work with:
    • Other school programs (School Readiness, SPED, Title I, etc.).
    • Other providers that work with families (e.g. Head Start, child care, health care, etc.).
    • Community programs (cities, YMCA, etc.).
    • Parents of school-age children (especially important because of alignment and P-3 models)
    • Other learning or educational programs that may benefit parents/families (libraries, workforce, arts, etc.).

4. Improve Coordination of Services, Partnerships and Collaborations

Some programs have highly effective collaborations and partnerships. Models need to be developed, replicated and tailored to other communities.


  • ECFE programs can improve their programming and services by learning about other programs that serve parents and families.
  • Collaborations allow programs to avoid duplicating services and ultimately maximize access to services and options available to parents and families.
  • Partnerships/collaborations are needed in order to best meet the comprehensive needs of parents and families.
  • Collaborations with community-based programs allow ECFE programs to expand access and increase overall quality of programming and services.


  • Define essential terms like: coordination of services, cooperation, collaboration and partnership.
  • Promote collaboration and partnerships to provide services tailored to family needs.
  • Encourage ECFE programs to work with community partners to develop common indicators or measures that demonstrate how families are doing in the community.
  • Create and distribute list of potential partners.
  • Provide guidance on collaboration.
  • As a part of the community needs assessment, recommend that ECFE programs identify services and resources for young children and families in the community.
  • Document and share other promising efforts happening in Minnesota and nationally.
    • Chicago Child-Parent Centers (CPC) model in Minnesota.
    • Head Start’s Parent, Family, and Community Engagement Framework (PFCE).
    • The Northside Achievement Zone's (NAZ) Family Academy.
    • Parent University, Boston Public Schools.

5. ECFE Programming Must Be Universal and Targeted

While ECFE is considered a universal program, most programs offer a range of targeted services and classes tailored to specific audiences. For example, ECFE programs have offered targeted services or classes to fathers, incarcerated parents, parents of multiples, divorced parents, grandparents, families of children with special needs, culturally-specific classes, adoptive families, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) families, age-specific classes, teen parents, family literacy, etc.


  • Minnesota’s population is more diverse than ever before, which means that parenting educators must learn culturally appropriate ways of providing parent and family education.
  • ECFE programs must adapt to best meet the needs of parents and families, especially since families, family structures and functions are more diverse than ever before.


  • Develop partnerships with people and organizations that represent or serve diverse cultures.
  • Assist programs in developing and conducting community needs assessment.
  • Provide or coordinate professional development opportunities for parent educators.
  • Develop guidance on best/promising practices that includes the recognition and provision of a continuum of aligned programming and services.