What type of support do families really want?
When supporting families, there can often be a discrepancy between the type of support we think they need and in reality what they actually need.
Sadly, and rather frustratingly, this can mean that services are developed on the basis of presumed, rather than actual need. This is likely to affect outcomes for families and consequently have an effect on the perceived success of an intervention, so it is really important we get this right in the first place.
It can be easily done, thinking we know what people need. We do this with our own families, with partners, with relatives. It is important however to establish what is really needed in a situation, even if that takes some time and a few wrong turns along the way.
When we get it right, small things can make big things happen. What might seem quite insignificant to one person, could spark something life changing. Never underestimate the power of the little things you can do. They can make a big difference.
I’ve interviewed many parents over the years in my different roles and they often tell me it is the small things that can have the biggest impact.
Here are some examples:
“I think just knowing that they are there to support you is the main thing that helps, knowing that you aren’t on your own is a real source of strength. They are great mediators for families and it helps to get other services on board, they speed things up.”
“One of the main things is the ideas that we throw around between each other in the meetings. We do our research and [worker] will come up with ideas as well and then we pool all our thoughts together and give things a go. Having someone else to help us think things through and come up with strategies and hear our own thoughts has been really valuable.”
“They showed us the way through the maze of services and how to get what we needed, because they were involved things happened faster which made a huge impact.”
“They helped me with how to get organised around the house, helped me to cope better and helped me get my head around how I organise my life with the kids.”
“They just make me feel like I have some back up, like I’m not in this on my own.”
These ‘small’ things can often have profound effects on families, like in the examples below:
“I think my attitude towards the children has changed the most. Also we have put together some house rules and the children’s behaviour has then changed as a result of this.”
“Just not having to battle on my own I think. Having someone, or lots of people in this case in my corner for a change. That has changed things the most. They have made me more confident and able to deal with things now, I’m not the nervous person I once was and that gives my daughter confidence in me. I am more able to cope so she has been able to disclose things she couldn’t before about her dad and we have been able to move forward. She is more confident in me as a parent and that feels great.”
“The way I deal with things and how I cope has changed a lot but also my son’s behaviour is now under control, he is less angry than before. All of that has had a knock-on effect on the rest of the family. Things are much calmer these days.”
“I think just my ability to cope and juggle a family and work and all the other general stuff you have to get through in a day. They have taken some of the pressure off by doing some of the chasing of services for me which really helps and of course they can get things moving faster as well.”
Sometimes, that one person working effectively with a family can be all that is needed to make progress. Below are examples of things families have said about their support workers.
“He is amazing, I worry what will happen when we don’t have him though as I feel as though it is this worker who has made the difference and without him things will go back to how they were.”
“She has helped a lot she would take our daughter after school on a one-to-one and work with her on a range of things but basically helping her to cope better with everything.”
“She has really helped us – she has been amazing to be honest with you. I just can’t fault her, she’s been a tower of strength at a really bad time for us.”
“She helped with boosting confidence and improving social skills but when she took him out it also gave us some respite so if helped our relationship and emotional health in the long run as well. We could parent more effectively with that little break.”
“My son worked with a worker [and] quite honestly he was an utter god! Our son has autism and he is bipolar so it takes a special person to understand what he needs, how to speak to him etc. [Worker] was an expert, he genuinely cared and we really felt that. He knew how to handle him and that was very reassuring for us as parents. He came every week and when they closed the case he kept coming for another 6 weeks so the contact was phased out gradually and our son didn’t just feel dropped by him.”
What is your process for establishing what families really need?
How effective is this?
Are you aware what a life-changing result effective support work can have?