This brief profiles the Strengthening Families Initiative (SFI) in Illinois and shares findings from an evaluation of early childhood programs that had been participating in the Illinois initiative for more than two years. The evaluation included review of parent and staff surveys, programs' completion of a survey instrument, interviews, and site visits, and asked what difference participation in SFI made. Respondents stated overwhelmingly that participation in Strengthening Families resulted in more and better-quality family involvement. Ninety-two percent found that being part of SFI helped them define and articulate their family engagement and family support efforts. Program staff described the following ways SFI helped them to be more effective in their family engagement efforts: increased parent involvement and attendance at family events and meetings; increased parent-to-parent interactions and relationships; increased parent leadership; and improved parent-staff formal and informal communication. Elements of the initiative's success are identified and explained in the following five main areas: protective factors and Parent Cafes, a welcoming community and culture in the program, professional development makes the implicit explicit, commitment to the Strengthening Families program strategies, and tools to assist with implementation. 5 references.
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