EveryChild welcomes individuals, organizations, provider agencies, and families who share a commitment to the following ideals to actively work together to assure family life for children with developmental disabilities:
- With the right support, every child should be able to live with a family.
- Supporting parents to care for their child is the first priority.
- When parents cannot care for their child, the next best option for the child is to identify another family to provide care temporarily until the child can return home or long-term if return home is not likely.
- When a child cannot remain at home, assuring a family for a child requires finding a good match between the child, another family, and the child’s family, taking into account the needs of the child and the ability of both families to form a collaborative relationship to support the child.
- Moving a child from a residential facility to a family home requires careful planning and a period of transition that takes as long as necessary to assure the family is prepared and supported to provide a safe and nurturing home on a long-term basis.
- Ongoing, individualized support for children and families is critical to long-term success.
When systems don’t work well to support family life, efforts to affect system change require active engagement.
EveryChild seeks to interest individuals and families in becoming Support Families for children with disabilities.
- Support Families offer an alternative to institutional placement when parents are unable to care for their children with developmental disabilities at home.
- A Support Family is a family who is recruited, evaluated, trained, prepared, monitored by a provider agency, and paid to care long-term for a child with a disability in their home. Support Families offer the reliability of trained and supervised caregivers within the nurturing environment of family life.
EveryChild seeks to promote an alternative to institutional care called “shared parenting.” Shared parenting describes an arrangement where care of a child is jointly shared across two households, between parents and a supportive alternate family. Shared parenting can be an innovative way to provide an alternative to a facility by providing practical assistance to a family while enabling a child to enjoy the benefits of family life when they can’t live at home. Children can live with another family (called a Support Family) and yet remain an integral part of their own family’s life.
Parents report that the experience of having another family who values their child is tremendously supportive, rather than threatening or causing guilt. A Support Family can become like extended family.
A child’s needs are best met when parents and a Support Family form a trusting relationship and work together on the child’s behalf. A successful arrangement involves a good relationship between the child and the Support Family, but also between the Support Family and the child’s parents. The two families work out a “parenting coalition” where they develop a workable agreement about their mutual expectations.
You can hear from parents and Support Families who are engaged in shared parenting arrangements by linking to our Stories.
Special situation for children in Child Protective Services
For children whose parents are involved in the child protective system, the interaction between the Support Family and the parents are outlined as part of a child protection plan which is monitored by state agency staff and the court. A shared parenting arrangement could be designed with the close collaboration between the child protective system and both families.
EveryChild seeks to promote the principles of permanency planning for children with developmental disabilities. “Permanency planning” is a term used by service systems to describe a philosophy and a planning process for children that focuses on facilitating a long-term living arrangement with the primary feature of an enduring and nurturing parental relationship.
Permanency involves two principles of optimal child development:
- Children need the emotional security and continuity of a nurturing parental relationship.
- Children need the physical security and continuity of a stable, safe living arrangement.
Permanency planning has been required by federal legislation in child welfare systems for twenty years But permanency planning has only recently been used in disability services systems. Applying permanency as a concept which originated in the child welfare system in disability services requires modifications to address the voluntary participation of parents whose rights are intact.