For a developing child, the value of family-centered care and the impacts of trauma on childhood learning are linked. Trauma occurs when children are exposed to events of situations that overwhelm their ability to cope with what they have just experienced. This definition is a powerful reminder that trauma is individualized and providers need to be aware that we all experience and respond to trauma differently.
According to American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA) family-centered care is a
“collaborative approach to the planning, delivery, and evaluation of clinical services” which involves a “mutually beneficial partnership” for family members and providers”.
Each individual is encouraged to share their ideas, knowledge, and experiences. The benefits of this approach include developing rapport and ensuring that the family members, the individuals, and the providers are all actively involved in service delivery (ASHA, 2020). For families who may be in highly stressful, traumatic circumstances clinician’s expectations for family participation takes on an additional dimension. How do service providers respond to or engage families in the process when it may appear that the family does not have a positive dynamic?
All young children rely on family members for basic needs such as shelter, meals, and safety, appropriate physical contact, love, and communication. Young children assume that relationships include emotional attachment, progressive complexity, reciprocity, and a balance of power. The role of the early intervention service provider includes helping caregivers to provide those elements to affect skill development. Recognizing a family’s circumstances, respecting their perspectives, and engaging in a reciprocal, honest, trusting relationship is critical to mediate the effects of trauma.
Family-centered care involves mutual respect, accurate and appropriate information sharing, participation, and collaboration. This concept is powerful to me as a provider reminding me that our first task in serving young children with disabilities or delays is to create meaningful relationships with families. In order to create environments that support child development, the clinician must meet the child and family where they are for that given day/session. For instance, a family member may be preoccupied with finding appropriate housing for their family and is not able to focus fully on caring for their child and therefore, the provider’s child-directed services may not be effective. Families have complex needs, thus most effective service provision is a team-based model. Providers need to be able to rely on team members creating integrated plans that address the family needs and priorities. When used appropriately, while incorporating the needs for the child, the family members, and the provider, family-centered care is a model for service provision that allows collaboration in the best interest of the child.