Caregiver Engagement in Religious Urban Elementary Schools

Martin Scanlan, Marquette University

Originally published in Marriage and Family Review, Volume 43, No. 3 & 4 (June 2008), online at:


This article examines how school leaders in a religious school serving traditionally marginalized students improve their school communities through constructing space for caregiver engagement. This study suggests how counter-narratives of critical care can inform social justice leadership in schools. The results, from a case study of a Catholic urban elementary school that uses innovative and effective strategies to engage caregivers, show that educational leaders create spaces for engaging caregivers by developing relationships with them and systematically reducing barriers to their participation in the school community. Analyzing these results through the critical care theory lens illuminates how these spaces value diverse forms of social and cultural capital are strengthened by alliances with nontraditional support structures. This research contributes to our evolving understanding of caregiver engagement by presenting a textured analysis of a case study as viewed through a critical care conceptual framework.