Emotional/Behavioral Disorders: Family Engagement in Education
Family engagement or involvement in the education of children identified as emotionally/behaviorally disordered must be viewed from the perspective of the family, who is the client or consumer. DeChillo and Koren (1995) identified several distinct elements of collaboration from the perspective of family members. First, parents reported the need for support and understanding from professionals in their relationships with family members. Families also needed assistance in the practical aspects of getting services for their child. The clear and open exchange of information between families and professionals was perceived as essential by parents, as well as flexibility and willingness on the part of professionals to modify or change services based on parent feedback. More than half of the families noted the following barriers to engagement in their child's education: (a) professionals' beliefs that families cause children's disorders, (b) insufficient administrative support for staff, (c) child welfare policies that require giving up custody of a child to get service, (d) the inherent power imbalance between professionals and family members, (e) professionals' lack of knowledge about children's disorders, and (f) professionals' high expectations of families.
Koren and DeChillo (1995) suggest that it is not sufficient to merely provide parents with resources; rather, it is important to foster a process in which parents have both control over current resources and a capability to obtain future resources. Empowering families can occur in three distinct ways: (a) the empowerment of individuals with respect to their circumstances, (b) the empowerment of individuals with respect to others, and (c) the empowerment of groups in relationship to the larger society. By looking at empowerment from this broad perspective, professionals need to help families handle problems within the family at home, deal with service systems on behalf of their child, and influence the service system for all children identified as emotionally/behaviorally disordered.
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