Outreach

Rationale

How many times have you heard the parent of a school-age child exclaim, “If only I had known of ECFE when my children were younger”? Or, after sharing with someone what you do for a living, how often do you hear, “What is ECFE?” Answers to these questions require us to ask the following: How do parents and families learn about our programs and services?

Since its inception, Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) programs were intended to serve all parents of children from birth to kindergarten enrollment. ECFE programs have always been voluntary, both for families to participate and for school districts to offer. Program staff must focus not just on reaching full attendance, but on reaching a demographic cross-section of the families living in the communities they serve.

Minnesota Statutes 124D.13, Subdivision 2, lists the program requirements for ECFE programs. One of the requirements (item six) is “a community outreach plan to ensure participation by families who reflect the racial, cultural, and economic diversity of the school district.” Item four requires “information on related community resources,” which is also a part of the outreach process.

Defining Outreach

The following was adapted from Wikipedia: Outreach is an effort by an organization or program to connect its ideas or practices to the efforts of other organizations, groups, specific audiences or the general public. Unlike marketing, outreach does not inherently revolve around a product or strategies to increase market share.
Outreach often takes on an educational component (i.e., the dissemination of ideas, information, etc), but it is increasingly common for organizations to conceive of their outreach strategy as a two-way street in which outreach is framed as engagement rather than solely dissemination or education. Outreach strategies are linked to the organization's mission, and define targets, goals, and milestones.
Considering this definition from Wikipedia, a program might define their outreach plan as an effort by their early childhood programs to connect its services and programming with the general public. More specifically, the effort might include connecting services with the efforts of other organizations or programs (e.g. Head Start, WIC, local hospital, school district, ABE, etc), with groups (e.g. childcare providers, pediatricians, kindergarten teachers, etc) and specific audiences (e.g. parents of children birth to age 5, parents of multiples, parents of children with special needs, grandparents, Hispanic parents, parents of newborns, etc).
Outreach is proactive, purposeful contact with others outside of your organization or program. After defining outreach, programs need to develop and implement an outreach plan. A quick internet search of “community outreach plan” will yield numerous examples.

Click here for Chapter 8 (Program Outreach) of the ECFE Implementation Guide

LINKS

ECO - Early Childhood Family Education Coordinated Outreach