When we speak about parent involvement and who is and is not a good parent, we
must take into consideration contextual and cultural circumstances. The
research denotes that the more involvement a parent has in their child's
schooling, the better for the child. Most of this research is based on White
Research has also negated to mention that families are not always comprised of
mom, dad, the two kids and the dog. In fact, the demographics of this country
show that divorce is up to 67% (Lindermuth, 1998). This rate implies that more
and more children are living in single parent homes.
This includes White middle-class families; however, the research holds on to the
Beaver Cleaver type of sample and tries to generalize it to fit everyone.
Some of these families, as well as those who face economic and safety issues,
look to extended family and kin to provide the needed support for their
children. This is more typical in African American, Latino and Native American
populations than in a Caucasian household (Garret, 1999; McCallion, 1997; Murry
& Brody, 1999). The model of parent involvement that is used is based on the
idea of a nuclear family. How much more involement would we have from families
if constraints were not put on the definition of who is family?
Another consideration to look at before negating the effort a family puts into
trying to participate in their child's education is the lack of support diverse
families have had from schools. How has the school system adjusted itself to
include families who work at jobs that are inflexible and do not let them off
during the middle of the day? What happens to families who rely on public
transportation to get anywhere? How is the intimidation factor of the school on
families addressed? Not all families are comfortable or feel on the same level
as educators. As with Native American families, the history between the culture
and schools brings up old wounds and they may not readily participate. Most
people of color underutilize services for such reasons (Jonson, 1999).
Most of the outreach programs work on a deficit model and focus on how the
system can change the family. Apparently it is the family who is wrong and it
is they who must fit in. I recommend that currently involved parents be
applauded. I challenge those who know how to operate the system, parents and
educators, to reach out to the families who are not currently active and find
out what needs to be done so that they can become more involved.
Garrett, M.T. (1999). Understanding the "Medicine" of Native American
traditional values: An integrative review. Counseling and Values, 43, 84-98.
Jonson, K. F. (1999). Parents as partners: Building positive home-school
relationships. The Educational Forum, 63, 121-126.
Lindermuth, D. C. (1998). Counseling African American families: Implications for
White counselors. Family Therapy, 25, 41-49.
McCallion, P. (1997). Exploring the impact of culture and acculturation on older
families caregiving for person with development disabilities. Family Relations,
Murry, V.M. & Brody, G. H. (1999). Self-regulation and self-worth of Black
children reared in economically stressed, rural, single motherheaded families.
Journal of Family Issues, 20, 458-484.
Elaine JC DeBassige D'Amato
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