By Christine Marchant
The job description of a Child Development Facilitator is exciting. We don’t know what we’ll be dealing with or what situation we will be entering. By the time we arrive, the entire environment could be in crisis mode. The adults are usually at the end of their ability to cope and are barely able to manage.
I don’t read the IPP or notes on the family or classroom before I start the job because, when I walk in, I like to have a fresh, no bias look at the situation. This is my method, I’m not saying you should do this. You do your own thing to prepare for the job. Everyone has their own style. I love to go in “cold” and observe quietly in the background to see how the interactions are naturally happening.
In this post, I’ll share with you one of my ways of building a relationship with the adults involved.
For about the first two weeks, I stay out of the way.
The first week, I observe the people in the environment, what the children are doing, and how the adults are responding. I always ask the adults involved:
- What are you expecting us to do?
- What three things are the highest priority to you?
- Are you willing to work with me towards these goals?
- Are you open to having me give you the reasons I’m doing something and are you open to following my examples for how to achieve the goals you feel are most important to you?
The second week, I write notes in my book. In the third week, I start addressing the issues. I go over the notes with the adults and ask them if I am going in the direction they are expecting. Some adults dismiss me and aren’t interested in working with me. Most adults though are very open and curious about what I am doing. I’ve met up with some HARD CORE defiant adults, but I don’t get offended. I see these adults as people who are in crisis mode and aren’t able to accept information. Some are exhausted, and have no more energy to receive even a small suggestion. This is ok! I back away and gently build up the relationship between myself and the children. Then, I work on a separate relationship between me and the adults.
About a month into the contract, I usually have everyone on board. As a team, we sometimes get so involved in the child’s needs and our eagerness to “show” everyone we are working hard…we sometimes forget the real reason why we are there. The adults are overwhelmed or exhausted and just nod and agree to whatever the therapists are suggesting. They know and understand that the team knows more. Unfortunately, they don’t always speak up about what they expect and want in their heart. This can lead to the adults not buying into the program and they check out or feel like it’s a waste of time. If they trust you, they will be honest with you and tell you what they really want. That’s the golden ticket!! If the parents don’t plan or can’t envision their child EVER being out of their care, they don’t care about community skills. If the parents don’t see any problem changing diapers, they don’t care if little Bobby ever gets potty trained. If the parents don’t mind doing everything for the child, they don’t care if the child learns self care. As the child grows, the adults grow. When the child starts developing skills, the adults start to realize and understand the importance of the goals the team is creating. Until then? The goals are just words to the adults. As the CDF, we are the bridge between the team and the adults in the child’s environment. By asking the adults what they honestly want and expect, we can start the relationship with honesty.
Sometimes, their desire is really out there. You don’t say anything. You smile and nod. Then you design ALL of your small immediate goals towards the adult’s large goal.
An example of a large goal: “I would really love to be able to snuggle my child and enjoy reading books together”. Don’t focus on potty training, or getting the child to brush his teeth independently, or even community safety. Gear your goals towards “wait for it”, “ ready, set, go” “imaginary play”, “building curiosity”, etc.It’s important that the adults feel heard and are working towards a common goal. This is just one example of a goal that an adult shared with me. The team never knew because the adult never expressed their desire. It was such a large goal for the family, yet such a small thing that everyone else takes for granted.
Another example is the parent that only wanted to be able to open his front door, say to his son “Let’s go to the car”, and finally, to walk together like every other parent and child. This is when I gear all of my goals towards “stop and go”, “wait for it”, “independent play”, “paying attention to his environment”, etc.
Another goal a parent had was to be able to go for a bike ride with their child. I geared my goals towards “look, look, go”, “stop and go”, “find the match”, “match me”, “fast and slow”, “paying attention to their environment”, and “compliance to instructions”.
The adults seldom tell the team these desires because they feel like they should be working on the “real” goals. It’s our responsibility to build a relationship with the adults who are in charge of the child. If the adults feel valued and heard, they will be the best support for you as the CDF. The best feeling ever? When you say to the adults—remember when I first met you? And I asked you what you truly wanted? Well—here it is. Little Bobby is now doing….What is your next most important goal?
It’s actually not difficult to figure out the “real goal”. You take the big final goal, break it down to what mini goals the child needs to do, then break those goals down to micro goals that the child can actually reach. These micro goals will look different for each child. Sometimes, it feels like you’ll NEVER reach the big goal. But it’s okay if you never reach it because the end goal is ever changing while the mini goals are the actual skills that the child is learning and building on. Many micro goals succeeded equals many mini goals accomplished which equals a huge variety of bigger goals accomplished.
When everyone starts to see the micro goals being met, everyone can start to see how we all work together as a team. I have found that when the adults involved start to see how all the mini goals work towards the large goals, they become invested in the adventure. Suddenly everyone is celebrating every micro success and this makes it all worthwhile. THIS is the key to building a relationship with the team.
I love working on teams that enjoy each other’s efforts and ideas. Everyone on the team needs to feel they are important and valuable. I love seeing the parent’s eyes light up when they realize that they can now cuddle with their child or when they can now just open their front door and say “Get in the car!” By the time we get this goal met, the team has a wonderful trusting relationship with everyone involved. We are no longer just strangers coming to their house and telling them what to do. We are a team.