Entering a Partnership with Families

Entering a Partnership with Families

A baby touches her mom's face

Families are typically involved in both child/family-centered consultation and programmatic consultation. In child-centered consultation, consultants, together with caregivers, directly involve families through all steps of the consultation process:

  • meeting and talking to gather information;
  • having families complete child assessments;
  • working together as a team to synthesize information;
  • planning and implementing strategies;
  • reviewing progress and transitioning.

Programmatic consultation is focused on enhancing “the overall quality of the program or agency and/or assisting the program to solve a specific issue that affects more than one child, staff member, and/or family” (Cohen & Kaufman, 2005).

For example, a Head Start director may; meet with the policy council and elicit ideas from families on what issues related to social and emotional health might need to be addressed program wide, such as divorce, violence, seasonal transitioning within migrant programs. Consultants may institute:

  • family support groups,
  • offer tips for classroom strategies,
  • identify community resources,
  • or provide specialized training.

A consultant in conjunction with Head Start administration might also conduct a survey or hold a focus group to gather information from families about their ideas related to programmatic consultation. In many cases programmatic services are initiated by directors or caregivers but with careful consideration families can be an integral part of implementation.

No matter what type of consultation is initiated, families should be thoughtfully informed about early childhood mental health consultation from the onset, including, what it is, how it happens, and the role each person will play. It is natural for families to feel apprehensive about services involving their child and to feel unsure about the consultant’s role and their own role in the consultation process. When ECMHC processes and roles are clearly outlined as part of a family’s orientation to Head Start and again at the time of referral, families may be more open to accepting services for their child as well as sharing their expertise!

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This product was developed [in part] under grant number 1H79SM082070-01 from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The views, policies and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of SAMHSA or HHS.