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Association of California School Administrators
Association of California School Administrators

Meeting families’ needs during COVID

Department of Family and Community Services provides support in Madera USD

By Elia Medina | January | February 2022
Madera Unified School District has heavily invested in family engagement in the last eight years, driven by the vision and mission of our district. We believe that parent engagement, inclusiveness and support are essential to the success of our students. Madera’s families are unique in their strengths, potential, needs and challenges when it comes to coping with changing social issues, curricular standards, online learning, local, state and national trends, and the unprecedented times we are currently facing as a nation.
To focus on providing support for the Whole Child and families, Madera Unified created the Department of Family and Community Services in 2013 to better support parents navigating our system by improving access to community resources and building on skills that prepare them to succeed as parents. All students and all families are unique, and by bringing our community into our schools, we see high rates of parent involvement and student success. Multiple research studies have also found that parent involvement supports students’ academic and social-emotional development.
The COVID-19 pandemic proved this department to be one of the most essential departments our district could have invested in. Staff’s commitment to serving our families as true “champions” allowed us to make the needed adjustments to support our families amid a pandemic. A MUSD call center open during non-traditional hours was created and continues to operate to provide the best customer service to our families. The call center was designed to answer not only school-related questions but also provide access and referrals to local community resources parents can benefit from to meet their basic needs, such as food, clothing, health care and more. Thousands of calls were answered per semester, providing our families with a sense of safety and security in that we are in this together and together we will rise.
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As we navigate in-person classes in a still very present pandemic, the Department of Family and Community Services continues to play a huge role in the safety of our students and families as they enjoy the beauty of in-person learning. Tailored and simplified documents explaining the school-setting COVID-19 guidelines have been developed; town hall meetings that aim to inform parents on the protocols and safety guidelines the district is following to ensure the safety of their students have been hosted; after-hours testing and COVID-19 vaccination opportunities, not only for students but families, have been made available; and our Parent Resource Centers continue to operate and manage the call center to address needs and provide families with learning opportunities.
The Department of Family and Community Services continues to play a huge role in the safety of our students and families as they enjoy the beauty of in-person learning.
The exceptional collaboration with multiple non-profit organizations, governmental agencies and community-based organizations has been key in providing our parents with the most relevant, local and accessible resources. The collaboration with the local health department has allowed the district to be an at-large contributor to the safety of our community by hosting COVID-19 vaccine clinics and providing the trusted space and accessibility many of our families needed to make that important decision of getting vaccinated. This collaboration has increased the number of our students, staff and parents getting vaccinated and protected. MUSD social media platforms and other platforms like Parent Square have been used to keep close communication with our district families and have increased the level of trust they place in us to assure the safety of their students.
The department was able to provide virtual educational workshops and webinars for parents to not miss out on their learning and skill-building opportunities. This presented its challenges but it was a double benefit for parents as they learned and developed a new lifelong skill to navigate through virtual platforms and make use of them to their advantage.
This newly developed skill allowed for a successful annual parent engagement conference with various educational topics of relevance that provided parents with the tools and motivation to continue on their journey of becoming the best version of themselves and the best role model for their children through these very uncertain times. Over 2,000 parents were able to join and participate in the conference.

Elia Medina is the Director of Community Services and Parent Resources Centers at Madera Unified School District.
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