Impact Feature Issue on Children with Disabilities in the Child Welfare System

Family Support Strategies

The following are some strategies that may be useful in supporting struggling families and preventing out-of-home placement of children with disabilities:

  • A Support Family. A Support Family provides family life for a child when their birth family is unable to provide it or provide it full-time. Within disability services, it is a way to provide shared parenting as an alternative to residential placement for a child whose family is considering voluntary out-of-home placement; it may be a valuable prevention strategy for use by the child welfare system, as well. A Support Family differs from a foster family in that it is recruited specifically for a child with disabilities and makes a long-term commitment to that child, birth parents can share parenting with a Support Family through mutual agreement without giving up their rights, and the Support Family is trained to care for the particular child placed with it.
  • Respite. Respite programs provide temporary care by trained individuals for children with disabilities. They give the family a break from caregiving, reduce family stress, and create time for other activities. Respite may be in-home or out of home; among the out-of-home options are respite in the provider’s home, a day care center, a group foster home, and homes of a circle of families that provide respite for each other.
  • Parent Training and Support. Parent training and education programs, support groups, and other family support services through disability and other human service organizations/agencies can assist parents with learning about the disability of their child, building skills in caring for their child, attending to the whole of family life, and finding peer support with other parents of children with disabilities.

Information on Support Families adapted from Options for Parents, Every Child Inc., Austin, Texas, www.everychildtexas.org/optionsparents.shtml. Information on respite adapted fromFactSheet Number 2, Respite for Children with Disabilities and Chronic or Terminal Illnesses, National Resource Center for Respite and Crisis Care Services,www.archrespite.org/archfs02.htm .