Family Centred Practice

Family Centred Practice is the core concept of implementing the transdisciplinary model. Family Centred Practice places families in central and pivotal roles in decisions and actions involving the child, parent and family priorities and preferences (Dunst, 2000).

The concept

Family Centred Practice is a philosophy which has been around for 20 years or so. This philosophy is a method of service delivery for the whole family where there is a partnership between parents and professionals. The focus of this service delivery is “on the family’s role in the decision making about their child and recognizes parents as the experts on their child’s status and needs” (Law et al., 2003, p. 2).

Traditionally pediatric services have focused on providing a service to the isolated child and their specific needs, without consideration of the environment and the family. Here the professionals make clinical judgments on their own observations and set goals accordingly; without consideration of the whole child, including their family, environment, preschool setting, culture, religion etc.

Over the last 20 or so years it has become obvious there is a need for the therapist to become aware of these important aspects of the child and their family. The professional only being able to see what they see, and only use the knowledge they have is not nearly enough to provide an effective service. And rightly so, children and families are all so unique and all have different needs and abilities.

The Family Centred Practice model allows for families to present their case, to teach or educate the professional on their unique position in order for the professional to adapt and adjust intervention accordingly and effectively for that family. By forming this collaborative approach between family and professional a more effective service will be provided for both the professional and the family.

“Although the desire for Family Centred Practice care is evident through evolving legislation and parental advocacy, the implementation of it is a daunting task” (Edwards et al. 2003, p. 240).

Traditionally therapists were in control of all decisions including goal setting, assessment, treatment programs, evaluations and therapy intervention. The therapist made decisions from their perspective and did not seek advice or concerns from families. Therapy intervention was child focused not family focused.

“If parents failed to follow through with prescribed activities at home they were often described by professionals as being non compliant, reflecting the belief that therapists knew what was best for the child.”

Currently this traditional child centred therapy approach is being challenged from many quarters. There has been much research into the involvement of families with professional intervention processes. This change of position of the parents is as a result of much thought and research.

Parents are the ultimate key to a child’s life experience. Time is spent and experiences and situations are shared together, therefore a special bond is formed between the parents and the child. There is a growing recognition that parent’s or carer’s knowledge can provide reliable and valuable information regarding the planning of the required care and education for the child.