What We Know
For many years, programs serving young children with disabilities have embraced the idea of family-centered practice as one of the most important core concepts shaping the approach to providing services. In both programs and policies, the emphasis has been more strongly on the idea of forming positive partnerships and empowering families. This is the how of working with families. Recently, the emphasis on accountability for programs has led policy makers to think about the family outcomes (in addition to outcomes for children) we should expect from early childhood programs. This in turn leads us to ask more questions about the what of family support in early childhood programs: What kinds of supports to families need that would lead to those outcomes?
What We're Doing
We sponsored three national meetings of our Early Childhood Family Supports Community of Practice. That group reviewed the research and policy literature to identify that there is indeed less emphasis on supports and services for families of young children. The group next developed a consensus framework and definition of family supports in early intervention and early childhood programs using input from prominent researchers on family issues around the country.
Finally, we developed a web-based national community of practice to enable families and practitioners to share success stories about effective practices and policies.
This article is a review of literature on family supports to analyze what research says about the impacts of family support for families of young children with disabilities. The article analyzes the literature to learn about evidence of impacts of family support in terms of (a) outcomes for families identified by the Office for Special Education Programs, and (b) domains of family quality of life.