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Element 5: Recognize Family Strengths

This element also recognizes the importance of respecting the unique aspects of the individual family. Therefore, providers must develop creative ways of addressing the circumstances surrounding the child if the service demands of that child are to be appropriately met in partnership with the family. The philosophy of family-centered care acknowledges that each family is diverse in its structure, roles, values, beliefs, and coping styles. Respect for this diversity in families places great emphasis on the strengths and resources within the family unit. In contrast to the traditional approach where providers were taught to determine the weakness of the family and to resolve issues for the family, a family-centered approach requires that providers reach a solution with the family. Professionals are encouraged to move away from the belief that it is their responsibility to fix the family's problems. Rather, the provider should accept the opinions and beliefs of the family and assist the family in building upon the existing strengths in an effort to achieve their goals for the child. Practice Considerations

  • Look for and identify strengths: communication, participation, interest, knowledge, parenting style, support systems, culture, and spiritual values.
  • Ask families o What are your strengths? Concerns? o What are your child's likes? Dislikes? o What is the best way to approach your child? o What do you want? Need? o What has worked in the past? What might work now? o What are your opinions and needs in the current situation?
  • Develop the IFSP to build on family strengths.
Providers are encouraged to listen to the family and ask how the family is coping with the needs of their child. Each family will cope with the challenge of a child with special needs in a different way. It is important that the provider be accepting and nonjudgmental about where the family is in the process of meeting these challenges. Family members should never be judged for where they are in the process. Further, families should not be told that they have unrealistic expectations for their child since it is often those expectations that provide the family with the necessary strength and hope to meet the day-to-day challenges of caring for a child with special needs.