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The Harvard Family Research Project separated from the Harvard Graduate School of Education to become the Global Family Research Project as of January 1, 2017. It is no longer affiliated with Harvard University.

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Our Early Childhood Education Framework Image


Parent, family, and community engagement (PFCE) is essential to meeting children’s school readiness and later school success. Harvard Family Research Project (HFRP) promotes an integrated and comprehensive approach to engagement in early childhood settings where PFCE:

  • Is embedded as a core component in all practices to promote child development and learning
  • Is rooted in all of the processes designed to meet an organization’s goals for young children
  • Addresses and supports the different needs, strengths, and interests of all children and their families

In order to support this approach, our early childhood work is built around a framework* that includes six areas of practice that are key to affecting child and family outcomes:

  • Program environment
  • Transitions
  • Engaging families as teachers
  • Home visiting
  • Educator–family relationships
  • Community partnerships

In order for these practices to be effective, however, they must be built on strong program foundations. These key program foundation areas are:

  • Professional development
  • Program leadership
  • Evaluation and continuous improvement

The areas of practice and program foundations exist in support of building capacity for quality ECE programs. HFRP works to do this by:

  • Sharing knowledge about effective ECE programs and practices in support of family and child outcomes (as illustrated in the graphic above)
  • Improving outreach and communications
  • Informing ECE policy and grantmaking

*This framework is derived from our partnership with the Office of Head Start National Center for Parent, Family, and Community Engagement.



Parent, Family, and Community Engagement is essential to meeting early childhood care and education goals such as school readiness and high-quality programs. Harvard Family Research Project strives to advance an integrated and comprehensive approach to family and community engagement in early childhood settings. To this end, we:

  • Invite early childhood policymakers and practitioners to participate in the Family Involvement Network of Educators (FINE). Our FINE Newsletter provides a platform to deepen the understanding of linkages between research, policy, and practice on specific topics such as home visiting, preparing children and families for the transition to kindergarten, and professional development for early childhood educators.

  • Communicate promising practices to early childhood education programs across the country. For example, as a key member of the Office of Head Start’s National Center on Parent, Family, and Community Engagement, we partner with other leading early childhood organizations to learn about challenges, look for opportunities to improve practices, and draw inspiration to develop practical tools that help early childhood programs engage families.

  • Build educators’ capacity and professional development opportunities for family engagement in early childhood education. For example, our Family Involvement Teaching Cases series prepares teachers and school administrators to engage effectively with families. The teaching cases involve real-world situations and consider the perspectives of various stakeholders, including early childhood program staff, parents, children, and community members. Through case-based discussion, educators can enhance their critical thinking and problem-solving skills and consider multiple perspectives.

  • Focus on using student data to promote continuous family engagement—from birth to school and beyond—by providing families with the information they need to support their children’s development and education. For example, we teamed up with the National PTA to release Breaking New Ground: Data Systems Transform Family Engagement in Education. This brief highlights innovative efforts by early childhood programs and school districts to use student data systems to engage families and improve parent–teacher communication.

  • Use research and evaluation to inform the development of early childhood education policies and grantmaking. For example, we are evaluating the Packard Foundation’s Preschool for California’s Children grantmaking program, which aims to provide high-quality, publicly-funded preschool for the children who need it most. Our evaluation approach focuses on continuous feedback and learning to make progress toward and be accountable for outcomes.

  • Facilitate communities of practice and learning around common goals, to help programs learn from each other’s successes and challenges. For example, we developed the Home Visit Forum, a network of administrators, practitioners, and researchers, who worked together to increase delivery efficiency, develop practice benchmarks to improve quality, and create a better understanding of the role that home visitation could play to help young children and their families.



Below you will find the list of topics we explore in our early childhood education publications and resources. To help you more easily find information relevant to your work, we have provided the definition of each topic. Click here to view all of our early childhood education publications and resources.


  • Program Environment: Publications about building and maintaining the structural and organizational capacity for strong early childhood settings.

  • Transitions: Publications that address the transition children make when they leave an early learning center to begin elementary school.

  • Home Visiting: Publications that concentrate on educators visiting students’ families at home.

  • Educator–Family Relationships: Publications that focus on real-life examples of families and teachers partnering to support children’s education.

  • Community Partnerships: Publications that explore the need for stakeholders (e.g., educators, researchers, policy makers, medical professionals, local businesses, etc.) to work together in support of early education. We also highlight partnership success stories.


  • Professional Development: Publications that explore the need for quality professional development opportunities, as well as information about teacher training and other development opportunities.

  • Program Leadership: Publications that describe the program leadership’s role in early childhood education centers.

  • Evaluation and Continuous Improvement: “How-to” documents that describe methods for conducting evaluations, discuss a program’s effort to improve, and/or describe an evaluation of an early childhood program.


  • Improving Outreach and Communications: Publications that feature best practices for communicating with different audiences, including how to share evaluation results with various stakeholders.

  • Informing Policy and Grantmaking: Publications that focus on early childhood education policies, address funding opportunities, and/or offer advice to grant seekers and foundations.

© 2016 Presidents and Fellows of Harvard College
Published by Harvard Family Research Project