Infant Toddler Development Training
Module 3, Lesson 3
Assessing Family Resources, Priorities and Concerns
As in other forms of assessment, family assessments should be evaluated rigorously and with regard to their effect and usefulness. There are many formal family assessment tools but this is not the purview of this lesson. However to simply gather information from a family using an instrument which has no value in recognizing the resources, priorities and concerns is of little use. Sometimes information is gathered which is filed away and is not incorporated into the IFSP and is not functional for the family or child (Bailey, 2004). Family members of course would feel frustrated when they take time to fill out a survey and the information is not used.
One of the most frequently used forms of family assessment is informal communication that occurs with the family in the context of daily routines and interactions between families and professionals (Bailey, 2004). Family resources, priorities and concerns are continually changing particularly as the child attains new skills and families gain new information and insights.
It is critical that personnel have excellent communication skills in interacting with families particularly throughout the assessment process. Listening, questioning and responding are critical in obtaining information from the family. Being open and non-judgmental and showing genuine concern and interest are important attributes for professionals gathering information from families.
When assessing the resources, priorities and concerns of families it is important to keep in mind that all families are different. Family members will differ in terms of education level, income, age, background experiences, and experience being a parent.
In determining resources, one might start by having families generate a list of persons, social organizations and agencies that they have contact with on a regular basis. By "mapping" their personal networks it will be possible to identify which sources of support may have resources necessary for meeting their needs. Some questions which might be asked: Who do you talk to about that...? What are you currently doing to handle that situation?
Dunst, Trivette and Deal (1995) make a distinction between concerns and needs. Concerns are conditions that lead to recognition that the difference between what is and what ought to be is sufficiently disparate to warrant attention. Whereas needs are conditions that lead to a recognition that something will reduce the discrepancy between what is and what should be. One of the major functions of the team member is to assist the family in clarifying concerns in order that resources might be identified to reduce that concern. Some of the questions which might be asked to identify concerns are:
- What do you see as one of your child's concerns?
- What do you worry about for your child?
- What is the biggest problem you and your family have in meeting your child's needs?
- What concerns you about getting services from Early Steps?
Priorities are based on the area in which the family wishes to focus their energy, time and resources. While professionals can provide information, input and suggestions, it is ultimately the family that has to follow through on the goals that are established. Some suggestions that might help families consider their priorities are:
- If we were to write just one goal, what goal would you choose?
- Are there some skills that would enable your child to participate in family activities?
- Are there skills that would make your home life easier?
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