Improving Systems, Practices and Outcomes

Family-Centered Principles and Practices

Family-Centered Principles are a set of interconnected beliefs and attitudes that shape directions of program philosophy and behavior of personnel as they organize and deliver services to children and families. Core to family-centered services is sensitivity and respect for the culture and values of individual family members and each family's ecology, as members define the people, activities and beliefs important to them. The purpose of early intervention is to achieve family outcomes as well as child outcomes. Preschool special education services must include family involvement as well as accomplish child outcomes. Extensive resources about measuring child and family outcomes are available elsewhere on the ECTA Center site.

Formal definitions of "Family-Centered services" exist in the fields of social services, child welfare, developmental disabilities, early childhood and children's health care. While the definitions are different there are common words and descriptions among them all.

The definitions from different fields and disciplines often include these common descriptors: strengths based, consumer driven, family systems, family support, empowerment, proactive service delivery, promotion, competency focused, partnerships, collaborative relationships, family driven. (from Pletcher and McBride 2003 below)

Resources Illustrating Principles and Practices

Mission and Key Principles for Providing Early Intervention Services in Natural Environments
A consensus document developed by a national workgroup, sponsored by the Community of Practice on Natural Environments.

Seven Key Principles: Looks Like/ Doesn't Look Like
Key Principles from the document cited above with illustrative practices that support or do not support the principles.

WWW: Family-Centered Practice
Resources from the Child Welfare Information Gateway to support and preserve families through a respectful, strengths-based approach that views the family as central to the child's well-being.

WWW: Frequently Asked Questions
Questions and Answers about family-centered health care from the Institute on Family-Centered Care.

WWW: Family-Centered Care and the Pediatricianís Role
American Academy of Pediatrics publication on the role of the pediatrician in delivering family-centered care.

PDF: Families as Presenters: A Manual and Directory (2006)
Family-Centered practices used throughout a module providing training for parents to be co-trainers with professionals.

Examples of Guidance Promoting the Use of Family-Centered Principles

State Part C Agencies

MO: WWW: Missouri's beliefs for Early Intervention System

NV: WWW: Nevada Early Intervention Services - Mission Statement and Guiding Principles

NC: WWW: North Carolina's. Principles of the Infant-Toddler Program

WI: WWW: Wisconsin Birth to 3, Training and Technical Assistance, Waisman Center's Key Elements of Family-Centered Services

Other Programs

WWW: Gentle Touch Parent-Child Program, a neonatal intensive care program describes Family-Centered Care

Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center

  • CB 8040
  • Chapel Hill, NC 27599-8040
  • phone: 919.962.2001
  • fax: 919.966.7463
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The ECTA Center is a program of the FPG Child Development Institute of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, funded through cooperative agreement number H326P120002 from the Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education. Opinions expressed herein do not necessarily represent the Department of Education's position or policy.

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