What is Family Services for Children with Disabilities

11 Jan 2022
Discover what family services are and their importance in supporting children with disabilities, promoting their well-being and development.

Understanding Family Services

Family services encompass a broad spectrum of programs and resources designed to support and strengthen families, especially those facing various challenges. These services are essential in society, providing critical assistance to families in need, particularly those with children who have disabilities.

Overview of Family Services

Family services, often asked as 'what is family services', cover a wide array of areas. These include marriage, civil union, de facto union, pregnancy, parenthood, childhood, incapacity, loss of independence, separation, divorce, violence, bullying, community support, death, homelessness, sexual diversity, gender pluralism, and social participation of people with disabilities, seniors, informal and family caregivers, among others.

In essence, family services aim to provide a supportive network to families, helping them navigate through life's challenges. They are often community-based, offering resources and support within local contexts. For instance, the Sandy Bay Child & Family Services operates under the authority of the Southern First Nations Network of Care, delivering a child and family service program that is community-based, community-designed, and oriented towards strengthening families, protecting children, and preserving the Ojibway culture.

Importance of Family Services

Family services play a vital role in society, offering assistance to families in need. They are particularly crucial for families with children who have disabilities. These services provide the necessary resources and support to ensure these children receive adequate care and opportunities for growth and development.

By providing access to critical resources in supportive environments, family services enhance protective factors for families, aiding agencies in establishing robust, community-based collaborative programs. This community-based approach ensures that the services are tailored to meet the unique needs of the local population, resulting in more effective and impactful programs.

Furthermore, family services also play a role in addressing issues such as family violence, offering victim services and treatment programs for offenders. By doing so, they help to foster safer, more nurturing environments for children.

In summary, family services are a crucial pillar in our society, providing much-needed support to families, particularly those with children who have disabilities. They help to strengthen the family unit, promote child welfare, and create more resilient, supportive communities.

Community-Based Programs

Community-based programs play a pivotal role in providing necessary support and resources to families with children having disabilities. Understanding what family services are and how they can help is crucial for such parents.

Critical Resources and Support

Community-based programs provide families with access to vital resources and services in supportive environments that enhance protective factors. They offer a wide range of support services designed to cater to the unique needs of families and children, including early intervention services, medical and dental care, early childhood mental health consultation, parent education programs, public library services, public housing assistance, and job assistance programs. These resources assist agencies in working with families, stakeholders, and service providers to establish robust, community-based collaborative programs [4].

Here's a brief overview of the services offered by community-based programs:

Collaborative Programs

Collaborative programs form an integral part of community-based services. They involve working with various stakeholders including families, service providers, and community organizations to create a network of support for children with disabilities.

Engaging families in the program planning process can strengthen child and family outcomes. It ensures that they are a part of goal-setting and program design, and provide input on school readiness goals. Many programs use their data and expected PFCE (Parent, Family, and Community Engagement) outcomes to design PFCE program goals. These are tailored to support unique populations' strengths and needs through the provision of family and community engagement program services [5].

There are tools available to develop measurable objectives, track progress, and achieve PFCE program goals. These may include published or locally designed tools, conversations with key staff and stakeholders, and observations of staff interacting with families.

These collaborative programs enhance the effectiveness of family services, providing comprehensive support to children with disabilities and their families.

Specific Family Services Programs

Understanding what family services entail and their significance is just the first step. It's equally important to explore some specific family services programs to gain a deeper understanding of the range of support available. Below, we discuss three such programs: Sandy Bay Child & Family Services, Dans la Rue Family Services, and Umbrella Family Child Care Programs.

Sandy Bay Child & Family Services

Sandy Bay Child & Family Services aims to provide a child and family service program that is community-based, designed, and oriented. The program emphasizes strengthening the family, protecting children, and preserving the Ojibway culture [2].

The program acquired the legal mandate on September 1, 2007, to offer child and family services as per the Child and Family Services Act for all individuals living in the Sandy Bay First Nation community, including families and children of Sandy Bay First Nation members residing off-reserve. Sandy Bay Child & Family Services operates under the authority of the Southern First Nations Network of Care.

Dans la Rue Family Services

Dans la Rue Family Services aims to assist marginalized parents or prospective parents by honing their parenting skills and providing support as they learn how to be parents.

The Family Services offers a variety of assistance related to parenting skills, including home visits, individual follow-ups with a counselor, support, references, mediation, accompaniments, education on pregnancy, child development, nutrition, family budget management, as well as activities and family celebrations. Despite the ongoing pandemic, almost all of Family Services' aid services have resumed, equipped with the necessary tools to address the public health crisis effectively.

Umbrella Family Child Care Programs

Family services at Umbrella Family include child care programs for infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and school-age children. The operational hours vary depending on the age group, with infant, toddler, and preschool programs open weekdays from 7am to 6pm, and before and after school programs for Kindergarten and School Age children open weekdays from 7am to the morning school bell and from the afternoon school bell until 6pm [7].

Parents are required to personally bring their children into the program each day and pick them up, allowing for the signing in and out of their child(ren). In the case of a child becoming seriously ill or sustaining an injury requiring immediate medical attention while at the center, parents will be notified immediately, and decisions regarding medical treatment will be made jointly whenever possible. The institution emphasizes the importance of emergency contacts, requiring parents to keep staff informed of current work and home telephone numbers as well as emergency contact numbers.

Each of these programs offers a unique approach to addressing the needs of families, particularly those with children with disabilities. By understanding what each program offers, parents can make an informed decision about the best support for their family.

Family Engagement

Family engagement plays a critical role in the realm of family services, especially for children with disabilities. It involves the development of partnerships between families, children's schools, and early childhood education (ECE) professionals to support children's learning and development.

Supporting Children's Learning

Research indicates that when families are engaged in their children's learning, it leads to better outcomes for children's school readiness in social-emotional, cognitive, language and literacy, and physical well-being areas [4]. This engagement is crucial for children with disabilities, as it can provide them with additional support and resources to enhance their learning and development.

Educators who actively learn about and understand a family's culture and language are better positioned to connect families to services or resources effectively [4]. This understanding can help tailor the learning experience to the child's unique needs and circumstances, fostering a more inclusive and effective educational environment.

Strengthening Family Partnerships

Strengthening family partnerships is another key aspect of family engagement. It involves developing strong relationships with families and providing them with the support and understanding they need as they navigate concerns and explore resources.

Following up with families after a resource is requested or offered is crucial, as the relationship, support, and understanding provided by the ECE professional are key to continued discussions with the family. This ongoing communication can help ensure that families are getting the most out of the resources and services available to them.

Engaging families in the program planning process can also strengthen child and family outcomes, ensuring they are part of goal-setting and program design, and providing input on school readiness goals. This active participation can empower families and give them a sense of ownership in their child's learning and development.

Through these strategies, family services can foster strong partnerships with families, support children's learning, and enhance the overall effectiveness of the services offered to children with disabilities. By understanding what family services are and how they work, families can better navigate the path and ensure their children receive the support and resources they need to thrive.

Program Planning for Engagement

The core of effective family services involves strategic program planning for engagement. This process is pivotal in designing systems that achieve expected outcomes for both families and children.

PFCE Framework

The Parent, Family, and Community Engagement (PFCE) Framework serves as a guide to program planning for engagement. It encourages the creation of effective systems and services to achieve expected outcomes for families and children. This framework is applicable in a variety of contexts, including those tailored to support the unique strengths and needs of families with children with disabilities.

PFCE Framework is a roadmap for progress, guiding programs to use data and expected outcomes to design PFCE program goals. These goals are then implemented through the provision of family and community engagement services.

Setting Measurable Objectives

In the context of family services, setting measurable objectives is crucial to ensure effectiveness and track progress towards achieving PFCE program goals. There are tools available that can aid in this process. These may be published tools, locally designed instruments, or even through conversations with key staff and stakeholders. Observations of staff interacting with families also provide valuable insights.

Involving families in the program planning process can greatly enhance the outcomes for children and families. By being part of goal-setting, program design, and providing input on school readiness goals, families can play a significant role in shaping the services they receive.

Data collection is a critical part of setting program goals and measurable objectives. Information gathered from intake processes, family assessments, and partnerships can be used to link child and family outcomes. This data also helps identify trends and patterns, which in turn, can guide the refinement of services and programs [5].

In conclusion, program planning for engagement is a significant part of family services for children with disabilities. By using the PFCE Framework and setting measurable objectives, services can be designed to effectively meet the unique needs of these families.

Addressing Family Violence

Family violence is a serious issue that can significantly impact the lives of children with disabilities and their families. Family services play a critical role in addressing this problem, providing assistance to victims and offering treatment programs for offenders.

Victim Services

Victim services are an essential part of the response to family violence. These services, offered through government departments, police forces, or non-governmental organizations, provide a range of support to those affected by violence. They offer information about the criminal justice system, court proceedings, and the status of the case, alongside counseling and referrals. These service providers also assist in the preparation of victim impact statements and provide assistance in court accompaniment and witness preparation.

Coordinated services are particularly important in the context of family violence. Family Justice Centres provide co-located services from different service providers, including police, prosecutors, legal resources, and counselors. Children's Advocacy Centres also offer coordinated services to child victims and witnesses of crime by providing a child-friendly setting for services and reducing the number of interviews and questions directed at children.

Certain programs, like the Family Court Support Worker programs in Ontario, provide assistance and support to victims of domestic violence as they move through the family court process, as well as linkages with the criminal justice system. These programs aim to enhance victim safety and access to services and supports, including emotional support, information about the family court process, and the provision of protection orders [8].

Treatment Programs for Offenders

In addition to providing support for victims, family services also include treatment programs for those who commit acts of family violence. These programs exist in several jurisdictions and are recognized as a form of offender accountability. They use multiple approaches, such as individual counseling and support groups, to address the needs of individuals who behave abusively in their intimate relationships. However, the effectiveness of these programs is not established, and research on their impact is equivocal.

In conclusion, family services play a crucial role in addressing family violence, offering support to victims, and providing treatment to offenders. These services are vital in assisting families in navigating complex systems and processes, providing the necessary support and resources to those affected by violence.

References

[1]: https://www.quebec.ca/en/family-and-support-for-individuals

[2]: https://www.sandybaycfs.org/goals-and-objectives

[3]: https://capacity.childwelfare.gov/about/cb-priorities/community-based-programs

[4]: https://extension.psu.edu/programs/betterkidcare/news/connect-families-to-community-based-services-and-resources

[5]: https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/program-planning/foundations-excellence/family-community-engagement-program-goals-outcomes

[6]: https://danslarue.org/en/where-to-find-help/family-services/

[7]: https://www.umbrellafamily.com/program-handbook/misc/safety/

[8]: https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/cj-jp/fv-vf/mlfvc-elcvf/p11.html

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