Family Matters

Just admit it. You TOTALLY heard this in your head when you read that headline.

(Did I just age myself? That’s ok. I am proud to be a part of the TGIF generation!)

Here at BGCA, we do a ton of research into what makes for a great Club Experience. What we’ve discovered is that certain practices have a big impact on how kids feel about their Club. One of those is family engagement, which makes this the perfect time to learn more since  November 21-27 is National Family Week! Look at these numbers from the 2016 National Outcomes Report:

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Clubs where staff members have deep, meaningful connections with members’ families have a better Club Experience,  which leads to better outcomes for their members. This is exciting! We can do this! When we found this link, we went to work interviewing Clubs that we know are great at engaging families. They gave us a ton of ideas!

Tip #1: Use technology to communicate with families.

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With more and more families having access to smart phones, consider using tech to share important info. The Northwest Boys & Girls Club of Boys & Girls Clubs of Hartford uses an app to tell parents if anything is going on with their child. A widely used app is Class Dojo, a free community tool that allows you to share directly with parents. It is designed for schools, but lots of Clubs use it as well. Many Clubs also use social media like Facebook and Instagram as a way to communicate. You can find BGCA’s Social Media Handbook for Clubs on bgca.net.

Tip #2: Host orientation events.

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Staff should communicate the Club’s rules and policies not just with members, but also with families. At orientation, you can inform families about the Club’s approach, schedule, and discipline policies, as well as introducing staff. The Mount View Boys & Girls Club at Boys & Girls Clubs of the Midlands made their one-hour orientation to their summer program mandatory. While there was initial pushback, parents were overwhelmingly positive about the experience after they attended. Boys & Girls Clubs of Lewiston requires guardians to attend a mandatory meeting when they enroll their children.

Tip #3: Create programs and special events designed for parents and families. 

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Fun events for families and members is a great way to get families involved! At the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Dallas’ Oak Cliff Club, staff hosted a series of healthy lifestyles programs for families, including hosting trainers and healthy meals. When I was working at the Pigeon Forge Branch of Boys & Girls Clubs of the Smoky Mountains, we hosted a taco night, but we put all of the different taco parts in separate areas of the Club. That meant that families had to go into every program space to build their dinner, giving them a chance to tour the facility and see program staff in action.

Some great opportunities for family events are coming soon! Watch this blog for more information on Lights on Afterschool (October 26) and National Family Week (November 21-27) in the upcoming weeks.

Tip #5: Don’t give only negative news, share the positive!

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One mistake that is easy to make is only sharing negative behavior issues with families. While it is important to keep guardians in the loop about what happened during the Club day, intentionally sharing praiseworthy moments goes a long way to building trust. If you can’t always catch families in person, send a short hand-written note home.

Want to learn more? You can get more tips on engaging families in our Research-to-Practice Brief called What Works For Building a Great Club Experience, as well as in the webinar we hosted with Club professionals on bgca.net. Please note: both of these resources are only available to Club staff.

How have you included families in your Club? What are you planning for National Family Week? Let us know in the comments or email me at sgrizzle@bgca.org and you may be featured in a future post!

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