Under the Umbrella – Allies & Advocates: Communication Between Families and Workers

Effective communication helps families and workers build rapport, as well as respectful relationships with one another. When families and workers have a positive connection with one another, they are much more willing to share information and to be more open and honest in general. In the long run, good communication between these two parties proves to be most beneficial in helping to identify strengths, as well as challenges, and successfully meeting the needs of the children.

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While everything mentioned above may be true and what is often considered best practice, broken lines of communication do sometimes exist between families and workers. We are all guilty, at times, of making assumptions that could lead to mistrust and misunderstandings. Below are two examples to illustrate this:

Example 1: A foster parent is upset and calls the worker’s supervisor when he thinks the worker is purposefully ignoring him because he has not heard back regarding an earlier message he left her about his foster son who received a citation for stealing snacks from a gas station. The foster parent does not know that the worker hasn’t responded yet because she received his message in the middle of responding to a crisis on a different case that took priority in which another child attempted suicide by ingesting an entire bottle of prescription pain medication.

Example 2: A worker is irritated and feels like he wasted his time when he shows up to a foster home for a visit he had scheduled two weeks earlier, but the family is not home. He leaves a message for the foster parent to contact him right away to reschedule and provide him a reasonable excuse for the missed visit. Very early that morning, the foster parent called and left a voice message for the worker explaining that he could visit her foster daughter at school or daycare; otherwise, they would have to reschedule their appointment as she had a medical emergency and was in the hospital. Unfortunately, the worker had back-to-back appointments since his day started, and he had not made it to his office nor checked his voice messages yet that day.

These are just two examples of how easy it can be to make assumptions of one another when there is a disconnect–no matter how big or small–in our lines of communication. Lack of communication is very clearly not very helpful for families or workers and creates unnecessary barriers in the timeliness in accurately identifying and determining appropriate supports and services to meet the needs of the children. Here are a few tips for families and workers to try to improve or keep good lines of communication with each other:

  • Develop a mutually respectful and positive working relationship with one another.
  • Be open and honest when communicating with each other on regular basis.
  • Share with each other what your preferred method of contact is (e.g., phone call, email, text).
  • Clarify with one another what the expectations are for normal response time, as well as crisis response time, and allow for some flexibility.
  • Do you best to avoid being quick to judge or make assumptions.

As always, we welcome you to visit our website and contact us at the Coalition if you have any questions, concerns, or comments you would like to share. We are here to help you.

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