Family Centred Practices in Early Intervention in Nova Scotia: Quality of Life Issues for Families.

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Melanson, Sarah
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Family-centred practice is comprised of three main components: family choice, working from a strengths perspective, and acknowledging and embracing the family as a unit, as opposed to merely the child or mother-child dyad (Allen & Petr, 1996). Within family centred practice, the Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) is used to outline the family’s goals and hopes for the future for their family (Garguilo & Kilgo, 2000). Developing IFSPs can be challenging (Jung & Baird, 2003; Jung & McWilliam, 2005; Mahoney & Bella, 1998) as service providers often lack training around family centred practices. Resulting IFSPs become documents created by professionals for the families with goals that are child focused, often ignoring quality of life issues for the family (Katz & Scarpati, 1995). The aim of this research was to gain deeper insight into family centred practices in Nova Scotia. Specifically, issues related to family centred practice such as the IFSP, quality of life issues for families, and formal and informal supports were examined from the perspective of parents and early interventionists. A qualitative research design was used to gather families and early interventionists perspectives and experiences in early intervention in Nova Scotia. Families (N= 8) and early interventionists (N= 3) from three rural early intervention programs were individually interviewed. Participants eagerly shared their experiences, frustrations and joys with early intervention. Results demonstrated that while early interventionists had a basic understanding of family centred theory, service delivery and IFSP development, practice and knowledge did not always blend. Of note was the disconnect between the knowledge of early interventionists and the experiences of families. Early interventionists discussed the pressures of meeting imposed deadlines for IFSP development while families lamented that goals were too child focused or not always in line with how the family functioned. Further, family quality of life issues did not iv appear to be formally addressed and there was some debate regarding the appropriateness and fit of these issues within the early intervention construct. The need for continued training and entry level qualifications to be an early interventionist in Nova Scotia was evident from the data. Early interventionists in NS need a means to share information and engage in ongoing professional development to ensure that new techniques and philosophies become part of their practice. This can only lead to more family focused practice and family led IFSPs. Continued in-depth training on the underlying philosophy of family centred practice and collective empowerment will help the early intervention community to truly understand and appreciate the notion of empowering each other and result in early intervention programs that truly reflect best practices.
Family Service Plans , Services , Parenting , Family social work , Family , Children , Disabilities , Social work , Nova Scotia , Family relationships , Developmentally disabled children