Families at the Center: Exploring Family-Centered Practices in Early Childhood Services

By Jenna Weglarz-Ward

Family Image
Creative Commons Licensing, [Flickr, Military Parents Participate in Child Find by US Army Garrison Red Cloud]
In 2016, the FDEI team will be focusing on promoting family-centered practices in early childhood services.

According to the Division for Early Childhood of the Council for Exceptional Children’s most recent edition of the recommended practices:

Family practices refer to ongoing activities that

(1) promote the active participation of families in decision-making related to their child (e.g., assessment, planning, intervention);

(2) lead to the development of a service plan (e.g., a set of goals for the family and child and the services and supports to achieve those goals); or

(3) support families in achieving the goals they hold for their child and the other family members.

Family practices encompass three themes:

  1. Family-centered practices: Practices that treat families with dignity and respect; are individualized, flexible, and responsive to each family’s unique circumstances; provide family members complete and unbiased information to make informed decisions; and involve family members in acting on choices to strengthen child, parent, and family functioning.
  1. Family capacity-building practices: Practices that include the participatory opportunities and experiences afforded to families to strengthen existing parenting knowledge and skills and promote the development of new parenting abilities that enhance parenting self-efficacy beliefs and practices.
  1. Family and professional collaboration: Practices that build relationships between families and professionals who work together to achieve mutually agreed upon outcomes and goals that promote family competencies and support the development of the child. (p.9)

As families have the most influence on their child’s development, it is important for professionals to support families’ confidence and competence in supporting their child’s growth and learning. Therefore, professionals need to develop skills not only in child directed intervention strategies but also skills to help parents and other caregivers enhance with knowledge and ability to carryover intervention strategies into their daily routines.

Carol Trivette from East Tennessee State University will be leading our linked-series of family-centered webinars to help unpack these recommended practices. Our first webinar on March 17, 2016 will focus on adult learning strategies. By learning evidence-based adult learning strategies, early childhood professionals are able to build families’ understanding, knowledge, and skills to support their child’s development.

On March 17 we begin with an interactive session on the Participatory Adult Learning Strategy (PALS) model. During this time, we will discuss the different learning methods from introductory strategy to mastery using research, examples, and discussion. Then on March 30 we will host a Lunch & Learn. This interactive event will give you a chance to share your thoughts, opinions, and experiences related to the key points from our live webinar and how you’ve applied these points recently in your own practices.

To register for our March 17 webinar, Principles of Adult Learning, click here.

To find out more about our March 30 interactive Lunch & Learn, click here.

We hope to see you at both events this month!

This post was written by Jenna Weglarz-Ward & Amy Santos, PhD, members of the MFLN FD Early Intervention team, which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, YouTube, and on LinkedIn.

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