Statewide Family Engagement Centers making strategic, widespread impact amid pandemic

Initiated through the U.S. Department of Education in 2018, the Statewide Family Engagement Centers (SFEC) program provides 13 states with five-year, $5 million grants to promote and implement systemic evidenced-based family engagement strategies.

As a result, innovative family learning ecosystems have been created in Arizona, Connecticut, Hawaii, Kentucky, Ohio, Maryland and Pennsylvania (combined), Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Carolina, South Dakota, and West Virginia. These SFECs work to support family engagement through state- and local-level agencies while providing both professional development to school districts and direct services to families related to children’s academic outcomes and overall well-being.

Two years in, this unique formula has catalyzed meaningful results across the collection of states, as family engagement efforts have proven vital in the face of a pandemic that has rewired how education is delivered across the country.

At a time when many families are feeling more uncertain about education than ever before, these SFECs have served as critical centralized information hubs. The Prichard Committee, which heads Kentucky’s SFEC, has in recent months disseminated timely blog posts, launched strategic surveys, and published key research findings, all aimed at informing educators, practitioners, and families about the latest educational barriers and opportunities across the state.

Parents and caregivers have also received easy-to-understand, applicable information to solve present-day problems. Middle school transition strategies have assisted Ohio families in successfully moving beyond elementary school, while social-emotional learning and reading strategy webinars have supplied parents in Arizona and Nebraska with a variety of practical tools.

While these efforts have informed numerous parents and practitioners, SFECs have also demonstrated the ability to reach thousands of students. In November 2020, the South Dakota SFEC partnered with acclaimed movie producer and author Sean Covel to expand the Porter the Hoarder Reading Program, supplying books to 10,000 first-graders at more than 100 schools statewide. A live conversation with Covel and illustrator Rebecca Swift as well as an interactive digital reading program and downloadable supplemental games extended the learning well beyond the story’s end.

These are just a few examples of the strategic yet widespread impact SFECs are making across a collection of states. At present, Congress is considering an increase in appropriations for this important family engagement work. On behalf of the entire national network of SFEC grantees, the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL), which leads work in Arizona and Nebraska and serves as a partner in Kentucky, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, thanks Congress for continuing to work hard to expand the breadth of support for children and families through this effort.

To learn more about the SFEC network, we invite you to join a Capitol Hill briefing on Dec. 3, 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. EST. Click here to register.