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Journal of Family Social Work

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Characteristics and Trends in Family-Centered Conceptualizations
Pamela Epleya; Jean Ann Summersb; Ann Turnbullb a Erikson Institute, Chicago, Illinois b University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas Online publication date: 01 June 2010

To cite this Article Epley, Pamela , Summers, Jean Ann and Turnbull, Ann(2010) 'Characteristics and Trends in Family-

Centered Conceptualizations', Journal of Family Social Work, 13: 3, 269 — 285 To link to this Article: DOI: 10.1080/10522150903514017 URL:

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how that definition has changed over the past decade. Implications for early intervention practice and research are discussed. Trivette. it has become an integral principle guiding the design and delivery of service models (Bailey. remains unclear. and. The authors found that. LLC ISSN: 1052-2158 print=1540-4072 online DOI: 10. & Brotherson.e.1080/10522150903514017 Characteristics and Trends in Family-Centered Conceptualizations PAMELA EPLEY Erikson Institute. Turnbull. early intervention. if so. IL 60654. Erikson Institute.. and individualized family services) have remained 269 . Shelton. Jeppson. KEYWORDS disability. Exactly what family-centered practice means. though the key elements of family centeredness (i. 1984). 1988. & Johnson. & Deal. Summers. LaSalle Ave. 1989. families. family–professional relationship.Journal of Family Social Work. family strengths.. 2010 Copyright # Taylor & Francis Group. Illinois JEAN ANN SUMMERS and ANN TURNBULL Downloaded By: [Catholic University Of America] At: 16:35 4 October 2010 University of Kansas. Chicago. Lawrence. E-mail: pepley@erikson. Chicago. The lack of consensus in defining family centeredness results in incongruence in the manner and degree to which professionals implement family centeredness. however. family as the unit of attention. Since then. Address correspondence to Pamela Epley. early childhood special education. the emphasis has shifted from the family as the unit of attention to family–professional relationship and family choice. This review of the literature examines current conceptualizations of family-centered practice in an effort to determine whether there is a common definition. Kansas Early-intervention and early childhood professionals have long considered family-centered service delivery best practice. young children The concept of family-centered practice made an appearance in discussions about early intervention (EI) and early childhood special education (ECSE) in the early 1980s (Dunst. 13:269–285. 451 N. family choice.

Epley et al. 2000. . Congress made explicit the expectation that EI provide supports and services to families of young children with disabilities. to enhance the capacity of families to meet the special needs of their infants and toddlers with disabilities’’ (Education of All Handicapped Children Act. even though the presenting Downloaded By: [Catholic University Of America] At: 16:35 4 October 2010 . and needs’’ (p. 2001. Summers. 2000.270 P. Family as the unit of attention is described as focus on the family with the recognition that children cannot be adequately served without considering the needs of their families. Blue-Banning. 1431(a)(4)). Frankland. ‘‘becomes a focus of assessment. & Beegle. the Division of Early Childhood (DEC) has recognized family-centered practice as the recommended model of service delivery for EI (McWilliam & Strain. planning. McWilliam. Lee. Allen and Petr derived the following definition to reflect thinking of family centered across disciplines: ‘‘Family-centered service delivery. Allen and Petr (1996) maintained that ‘‘despite its broad use. strengths. & Kyzar. DEC currently characterizes family centeredness as a philosophy and practice that recognizes the centrality and enhances the strengths and capabilities of families who have children with disabilities (Trivette & Dunst. therefore.. family–professional relationship (36%). 58). Allen and Petr reviewed definitions of family centered across the disciplines of social work. 2004. 2004). family strengths (25%). A decade later. and individualized services (32%). Hebbeler et al. by creating and requiring individualized family service plans (as opposed to Individualized Education Plans). . Based on a content analysis of 28 definitions in more than 120 peer-reviewed articles. views the family as the unit of attention. 2007) and personnel development (Granlund & Bjorck-Akesson. 1998. and intervention. IDEA authorized services to infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families for the first time. 2005). 2007. across disciplines and settings. 1993. The list that follows identifies the six key elements of family centeredness and the percentage of articles they reviewed that included each of the elements: family as the unit of attention (100%). McWilliam. In an effort to clarify the definition. Odom & McLean. With the addition of Part C. Bruder. Moreover. Porter & Munn. 1986. ‘‘an urgent and substantial need . 1993. Congress established the Program for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities (Part C of IDEA) in recognition of. 1993). 1989). among other things. Turnbull. Snyder. Harbin. Advocates for families at the time hailed this policy as an important step forward for serving families and young children (Shelton et al. Nelson. family choice (29%). Since 1993. The 1986 reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) embodied principles of family-centered practice in many ways. Summers & Turnbull. 64). health. Summers. 2000. Vincent & Beckett. Nelson. the term family-centered still causes confusion because it is used by authors in different ways’’ (p. & Harbin. and education. This model organizes assistance in a collaborative fashion and in accordance with each individual family’s wishes. Tocci.. family needs (32%). The entire family.

In family-centered service delivery. we (1) describe our method and Downloaded By: [Catholic University Of America] At: 16:35 4 October 2010 .Family-Centered Conceptualizations 271 concern may relate to only a part of the family’’ (p. individualized services referred to assessment. whenever possible. curricula for professional development. 2004. 2006. 2007).than family-focused services (Bailey. mutuality. (2007) found that. the literature continues to include concerns about shortfalls in the full implementation of family-centered practice (Bruder. The purpose of this review was to examine (1) whether conceptualizations of family-centered practice have changed over the last decade and (2) whether there is currently a commonly understood definition. it provides a basis for evaluating the implementation and outcomes of family-centered practice. though the percentage of families receiving family-focused services declined from 1994 to 2001. and teamwork. 2007). Summers. research on parents’ perceptions of EI services also indicates a greater satisfaction with child. Based on an analysis of Part C state-reported data.. Finally. 2007) and a gap between the services and supports families receive and what they believe they need (Summers et al. Hebbeler et al.. and building upon the family strengths. 65). First. & Mallik. Hebbeler. The element of family needs entailed services offered and available to all family members with a holistic view of families’ ‘‘circumstances. 2006. These data raise questions about the provision of family-centered practice in EI. researchers (Soodak & Erwin. Turnbull et al. Turnbull.. a clear understanding of family-centered practice provides guidance for a common set of competencies for professionals. Murray & Mandell. ‘‘the primary and ultimate directors of and decision makers in the caregiving process’’ (p. Parette & Brotherson. Turnbull et al. and resources’’ (p. Second. 2002. and interventions matched to the needs of each family. In this article. 64). Lea. Campbell & Halbert. Summers. Although policy and professional guidelines endorse family centeredness. Turnbull. Scarborough. goal setting. Turnbull. the percentage of families receiving child-focused services increased. 2004. 2000. policy makers. 65). it provides a starting point for reaching consensus among researchers. Rao. 2007. A clear understanding of how family-centered practice is defined in the literature is important for several reasons. professionals. Empowerment of families was also associated with the element of family strengths. Turnbull et al. Family choice referred to the organization and provision of services in accordance to families’ wishes and choices. 2004. Furthermore. families are. Last. Now. Summers. 2000) describe recent examples of parents’ difficulties in forming partnerships with EI and early childhood professionals. 2000) and anecdotal accounts (Bruder. incorporating. Spiker. and standards for programs related to serving and supporting families.. 2000. more than 20 years after the establishment of Part C services for infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families. and families about the meaning of family centeredness. concerns. Family strengths were defined as acknowledging. Family– professional relationship was described as family members and professionals in equal partnership and included such concepts as equality.

Controlled language search terms included families. disabilities. and young children. concerns. for example. and included a constitutive or operational definition of family centered.272 P. social work. Seventy-seven articles met these criteria. Our initial search yielded a total of 177 articles. we conducted computer searches of ERIC. and health. reported original research or perspective. Wilson Web. early intervention. We then reviewed abstracts of articles matching the search terms and eliminated articles unrelated to early intervention. framework for analysis. Individualized services. early childhood education. Due to the similarities inherent in these two elements. or the provision of services to children with disabilities or their families. we combined family needs and individualized services. is described as family-centered services that take into account the ‘‘family’s circumstances. We then used the following five key elements as a framework for analyzing current . and (3) discuss implications for EI research. Although these five articles contained references to and descriptions of family-centered practice. doctoral dissertations. and presentations. we were unable to identify a specific definition that did not include our own interpretation and potential bias. We then excluded seven response articles to Mahoney et al. we found considerable overlap in the definitions and descriptions of family needs and individualized services. are referred to as services matched to meet the needs and resources of each family. psychINFO. (1999) and two responses to Bailey (2001) that responded to but did not necessarily present an original perspective. 65) and allows for changes in family’s needs. Epley et al. Keywords for the natural language search included familà and centà (truncated to include all forms of the terms). We excluded unpublished articles. (2) present findings regarding the key elements currently included in definitions of family-centered practice. and resources’’ (p. METHOD Search Process To perform a comprehensive review of the literature on family-centered practice across the disciplines of education. we excluded five that did not explicitly define family-centered practice. and Educator’s Reference Complete Database for articles published between 1996 and 2007. We evaluated articles for inclusion in this review using three preliminary criteria: the article was published in a peer-reviewed journal between 1996 and 2007. parent-teacher relationships. on the other hand. The component of family needs. Downloaded By: [Catholic University Of America] At: 16:35 4 October 2010 Coding Examining the six elements of family-centered practice identified by Allen and Petr (1996). Of the remaining 68 articles.

respect for cultural diversity. and individualized family services. read. Finally.’’ Definitions of family-centered practice that included ‘‘family control’’ and ‘‘parental decision making’’ were coded as family choice. To assess reliability of coding. We coded phrases such as ‘‘strengths-based perspective. family-centered service delivery recognizes that ‘‘children cannot be served appropriately without consideration of the family or families with whom they [live]’’ (Allen & Petr. the second author randomly selected. and interventions must focus on the concerns and needs of the entire family (Allen & Petr). and (5) individualized family services. Therefore. Family as the Unit of Attention In analyzing current conceptualizations of family-centered practice. FINDINGS In reviewing the literature on family-centered practice. Consequently. we evaluated current definitions for the presence of the five key elements of family centeredness: family as the unit of attention. service coordination. social work. Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) development. Examples of items coded as family as the unit of attention include ‘‘family orientation’’ and ‘‘meet the needs of the entire family. (2) family choice.’’ ‘‘empowered and enabled’’ families. 1996. and coded 25% of the articles using the same coding system as the primary investigator. family strengths. we found no substantial differences. and respite care.Family-Centered Conceptualizations 273 Downloaded By: [Catholic University Of America] At: 16:35 4 October 2010 definitions of family centeredness: (1) family as the unit of attention. 64). For purposes of accuracy and reliability. examples of individualized family services include parent training. In addressing the family as a whole. Of the 63 articles reviewed. family–professional relationship. ‘‘promoting family capabilities and capacities. nearly two thirds specifically defined family centeredness as treating the family as the unit of . Comparing the presence of these elements in the education. the senior author coded each article on two separate occasions within a time span of 2 weeks. family choice. support groups. p. and heath literature. Therefore. assessments. our intention was to examine current conceptualizations of family-centered practice and determine how conceptualizations may have changed over the past decade. Coding was consistent across coders at 95% with differences not being of a substantive nature. (3) family strengths. and collaborative relationships were coded as family–professional relationship. this section presents current conceptualizations of family-centered practice across all three fields. to the extent necessary. we first examined the element family as the unit of attention. (4) family–professional relationship.’’ and ‘‘strengthening family function’’ as family strengths. References to trust.

Moreover. 2003. & Free. 150). for example. in part. we also noted marked differences in the degree or extent of choice. (1997). Snyder. Operational definitions included family control over services=resources and families taking control over their lives. Hatton. 2007. 10 identified families as the ultimate or key decision makers in a family-centered service delivery model. Of the 63 articles reviewed. improving family quality of life and well-being. we considered a focus on families’ needs. Hamilton. practices. Porter. King. Similarly. described family centeredness as. 41). Herman (2007).. 2006. asserted that parents have ‘‘ultimate control over decision making’’ (p. controlling confidentiality and sharing of information. Roy. making decisions regarding service delivery. Roach. Allen and Petr (1996) argued that family centeredness maximizes family choice in defining one’s family. and how the services will be provided and implemented’’ (p. and identifying primary concerns and goals. 2003) and recognizing the family as the client (Guillett. 2002. Of the articles reviewed. McWilliam. conceptualizations of family choice emphasized parental involvement rather than ultimate choice in decision making. Although we identified family choice in a large majority of articles. McWilliam et al. & Marien. Cress. and Parette and Brotherson (2004) made specific reference to parent and family outcomes in addition to child outcomes. Other frequent descriptions of family choice included family decision making and collaboration in identifying goals. More commonly. Although wording varied somewhat within articles. and individualized family support and outcomes consistent with the concept of family as the unit of attention. Downloaded By: [Catholic University Of America] At: 16:35 4 October 2010 attention.274 P. approximately three-fourths identified family choice as an element of family centeredness. & Riley. 1997). Family choice ranged from parents as ultimate decision makers to collaborators in goal setting. Fox. and Cushing (2002) described parental ‘‘control over where. often identified verbatim. Clark. Epley et al. 2000). 520). 2004. when. & King. and Munn (2000). King et al. determining the nature of family–professional relationships. Several definitions of family centeredness referred explicitly to meeting the needs of families unrelated to their child with a disability (Crais. Dunlap. We found . Roy. Family Choice The second element of family-centered practice is family choice. and interventions. Larsson (1999). Although Herman (2007) did not explicitly convey ultimate parental control. Harbin. Fox. Rosenbaum. for example. he similarly described parental decision-making powers regarding all child services and interventions. Other characterizations of families as the unit of attention included viewing the family holistically (Erickson. attending to family concerns ‘‘whether or not related to the child’’ (p. Farmer. & Renne. Nearly one third of articles identifying family choice as an element of family centeredness described parents as partners in decisions regarding EI.

We identified family strengths as a component of family-centered practice in approximately one half the articles. strengthening family functioning. and information sharing. 1996). Rhodes.. McWilliam et al. enhancing families’ capabilities and competencies. References included a strengths-based perspective and acknowledging. Prelock. Although Allen and Petr (1996) conceptualized family choice across multiple dimensions. Hutchins. Although slightly more than one half the articles recognized family strengths as a component of family-centered practice. Gearing. Family choice was less frequently associated with the nature and extent of the family–professional partnership. 65). or focusing on child and family strengths. Descriptions such as empowering and enabling families. and service delivery. 48). only McWilliam and colleagues (McWilliam et al. McWilliam and colleagues (McWilliam et al. we found choice predominantly associated with decisions regarding identification of needs and concerns. McWilliam et al. and interventions. services. families’ level of participation and decision making. 2006) and ‘‘family-driven decision-making’’ (Starble.. 1998. 2003. defining one’s family. This requires a change in how family members are perceived—from causes of problems and barriers to collaborative partners with positive attributes. we failed to find reference of family choice concerning defining one’s family or how and with whom information is shared. Of the articles identifying family choice as a key element of family-centered practice. and building upon them’’ (p. Goldie. entail a commitment to and respect for the strengths and capabilities of each family member (Allen & Petr. the third key element in the analysis of family centeredness. Family Strengths Family strengths. In addition to recognizing and building upon family strengths. but also ‘‘incorporating them into intervention plans. goals.Family-Centered Conceptualizations 275 Downloaded By: [Catholic University Of America] At: 16:35 4 October 2010 frequent references to parents’ shared responsibility in making decisions regarding EI practices. 2000) called attention to another aspect of strengths-based perspective: enhancing families’ confidence and belief in their own abilities. This reflected Allen and Petr’s (1996) assertion that identification of strengths and opportunities for choice are intertwined. & Selkirk. we found mention of choice concerning the family– professional partnerships and level of parental participation only twice. 2005. p.. A belief in families’ strengths and decision-making capabilities by families and providers maximizes family choice and their sense of competency.. abilities. promoting. 2000) included building families’ . 1998. Koller. appropriate interventions. 2004. & Darling. 1996). Gallagher. What is more.. Examples of shared decision making include parents as partners in making decisions (Farmer et al. This means not only considering family strengths. Nicholas. and resources (Allen & Petr. & Bitner. Favro. and recognizing the unique qualities in each family were also consistent with the element of family strengths.

and education. (2003). (2006) and Trivette and Dunst (2004) proposed family centeredness as a means of enhancing families’ feelings of competency and confidence. 2004. Nelson et al. Cited most frequently were services led by families such as Parent to Parent support. Collaborative partnerships. and professionals accompanying families to meetings and appointments. for example. listening. Ferguson. References to other family services were limited or isolated. Family services that are individualized match the needs and resources of each individual family (Allen & Petr. 2005). discussed social and recreational activities for families. 1998). 1997). Collectively. 2002. Downloaded By: [Catholic University Of America] At: 16:35 4 October 2010 Individualized Family Services The final element we examined in definitions of family-centered practice was individualized family services. they do so within the context of effective family– professional relationships rather than as a component of a strengths-based perspective.. parent training. Mahoney and . Herman. cultural responsiveness. While Koller et al. Starble et al. 2007.. These encompassed services led by families and those led by professionals. honesty. and ‘‘help-giving’’ practices were commonly cited examples of successful family–professional relationships.. information. developing mutual trust. We found family–professional relationship in 90% of the definitions of family-centered practice. Less frequently noted family services provided by professionals were respite care. Bodner-Johnson (2001) and Hamilton et al. (2002) and Truesday-Kennedy. offering families a sense of hopefulness by emphasizing strengths and progress (Cress. Respectfulness and sensitivity to families’ needs. family counseling. these conceptualizations illustrate how EI providers develop relationships with and respond to many families’ concerns and needs through successful family–professional relationships. Other noteworthy examples of positive family–professional relationship included giving parents an optimistic view of the future (Bailey et al. Of the articles reviewed. awareness and confidence in their strengths into a strengths-based perspective. and Roberts (2006) referred to person-centered planning for families. Family–Professional Relationship Family–professional relationship generally refers to the partnership between families and professionals. The most commonly noted professionally-led services included service coordination. Winton & Bailey. 1996). Only two articles. information sharing.276 P. Additionally. and professional flexibility (Dunst & Bruder. Fox et al. 2004. Epley et al. almost one half mentioned family-focused services to meet specific family needs. and understanding families’ perspectives were also noted. McConkey.

Three .. we can confirm that this element is commonly accepted. 2007). Nelson et al. however. family relationship) as contrasted to what services are offered (Turnbull. and family services has stayed about the same. and family relationships have increased. 2005). family strengths. Allen and Petr (1996) identified the family as the unit of attention as the most frequently emphasized element. appears to have changed. referred to financial assistance. & Turnbull. We draw themes from the data to address these two purposes. et al. The element of the family as the unit of attention has decreased. family choice. Extent of a Commonly Understood Definition of Family-Centered Practice Based on our data. The emphases. Summers. we conjecture that this decrease is consistent with an overall downward trend from 1994 to 2001 in the percentage of families who receive family-related supports and services in EI programs. Clearly family support programs delivered through early childhood programs are heavily focused on mothers as the sole family member of family intervention (Friend. Overall data on child and family services have indicated a downward trend for family services and an upward trend for child services (Danaher & Armijo. identify implications for EI research. Downloaded By: [Catholic University Of America] At: 16:35 4 October 2010 Past and Current Conceptualizations of Family-Centered Practice The key elements of family-centered practice identified a decade ago remain fundamental to current conceptualizations. (2004) alone noted transportation as a family service. The trends reported in this article in terms of the decrease in family as the unit of attention also suggest a decrease in who in the family receives services. Turnbull. whereas the current element most frequently emphasized is family–professional relationship. given that 90% of the articles address family–professional relationship. These findings and other related data on trends in providing services and supports to families of children during the early childhood years indicate that the major emphasis over the last decade has been on how families are treated (family choice. DISCUSSION The purpose of this review was to examine current family-centered conceptualizations to determine whether there has been a change in recent years and if there is a commonly understood current definition. Summers. 2009). Last. and highlight limitations of this review.Family-Centered Conceptualizations 277 Bella (1998) and Ridgley and Hallam (2006). Although we have no data that directly addresses the reason for the decreased emphasis on the family as the unit of attention.

the provision of specific family-focused services is necessary and appropriate.. research shows greater parental satisfaction with child. familycentered practice must address services for children and families that enhance child and family outcomes. we suggest that it would be ..278 P.versus family-related services (Bailey et al. family as the unit of attention. and family strengths.. Epley et al. (2007) suggested that one reason the field of early childhood has failed to develop a conceptual framework for what resources families should receive goes back to the emphasis on family choice and reluctance to prescribe a ‘‘menu’’ of supports and services. Turnbull et al. Summers. 2007). Turnbull et al. It is essential to have positive family– professional relationships. family as the unit of attention. Federal data based on EI services identified on IFSPs indicates increased child services and decreased family services over the past decade (National Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center. Collectively. EI programs are only responsible for parents (1) knowing their rights. and (3) being able to help their child develop and learn (Bailey et al. Moreover. Summers. family choice. We find the lack of inclusion of individualized family services as part of the definition of family-centered practice especially problematic. Downloaded By: [Catholic University Of America] At: 16:35 4 October 2010 Implications for EI Practice and Research We suggest three implications from this review of family-centeredness conceptualizations for future research. OSEP declined to adopt outcomes more directly related to family services. 188). 2004. Turnbull. (2) being able to effectively communicate their child’s needs. we conclude that this element is not commonly accepted.. First. If EI and early childhood programs are to effectively meet the needs of children with disabilities and families. 2007). Summers et al. and family strengths. They argued. the low emphasis on individualized family services in this review and these findings on decreased family services and lower parental satisfaction with family-related services support the recent view that EI has focused primarily on how professionals support families (through collaborative relationships) but has not sufficiently addressed what supports and services should be available (Turnbull. other elements have a midrange extent of acceptance: family choice. that families and providers often lack information on appropriate or available supports and services and maintain ‘‘people cannot exercise choice if they do not know what their choices are’’ (p. however. Given that only one third of the articles address individualized family services as an aspect of family-centered service. Despite recommendations by the Early Childhood Outcomes Center (ECO) that family outcomes include having support systems and being able to access community services. The lower emphasis on family services is also consistent with the Office of Special Education Programs’ (OSEP) recently adopted family outcomes for Part C. 2004). 2006). however.

Downloaded By: [Catholic University Of America] At: 16:35 4 October 2010 . 2002). 2007). Lee. We think it is especially important. Once consensus is reached on elements. Such research has implications for professional development. in light of societal economic circumstances with the corresponding cutbacks of programs that are occurring. Our analysis of explicating definitions from published literature inherently depends primarily on professional perspectives concerning key components. once there is strong consensus on the key elements of family centeredness across family and professional communities.. et al. Research suggests that increased quantity and variety of interactions with families during in-service training improves graduates’ understanding and implementation of familycentered practices (Mandell & Murray. The superiority of their nontraditional approach to having family members team teach with university faculty and having parents of children with disabilities participating in the course with undergraduate students provides innovative approach to building competencies. McCormick. Summers. and skills required in the provision of services to infants and toddlers and their families are qualitatively different from those typically included in programs preparing personnel to work with preschool or school-aged children’’ (p. programs specifically designed to prepare students for family-centered practice have been found to be effective and result in graduates using more family-centered practices (Pretti-Frontczak. competencies. Vail. One particular difference is the need for interdisciplinary efforts and partnerships. our recommendation of family organizations and professional leaders partnering is to ensure a strong family voice in delineating key components and to establish consensus across disciplines. to reach strong consensus on the key elements of family centeredness and then to advocate strongly for the full implementation of the agreed-upon elements. Second. Giallourakis. & Hayes. 299). We recommend replication of the research that has been conducted documenting the positive outcomes of using a family-centered approach to teach family centeredness. and Gallagher (2002) stated that the ‘‘behaviors. we also suggest that family and professional organizations work together to establish key indicators of each element and rubrics that professionals and families can use to document the extent to which all elements are incorporated in professional development and service delivery. We especially endorse the approach to research carried out by Murray and Curran (2008) in which they use mixed methods to compare nontraditional and traditional approaches to teaching family-centered values and practices to undergraduate students. continuing education. there is a critical need for research to investigate means of effectively preparing early childhood professionals’ implementation of family-centered practice. 2005). administrative structures of early childhood programs. and program assessment.Family-Centered Conceptualizations 279 efficacious if national family organizations and professional organizations across disciplines involved in the delivery of EI=early childhood services would partner in explicating key essential elements of family centeredness (Turnbull. Fortunately. Thus. Janas.

2008. the National Early Intervention Longitudinal (NEILS) Study (Bailey et al. family income) characteristics. social-emotional.. marital status. help their child learn and develop.280 P. 2006) suggest that EI and ECSE are associated with positive developmental. Markowitz et al. Allen and Petr (1996) noted the interest by families. Third. Based on a recent review of family outcome studies. 2007). Summers et al. (2007) reported that the large majority focus on how family outcomes vary as a function of individual (i. examined how and to what extent EI=ECSE programs engage in family-centered practice or its effects on child and family outcomes. Lee et al. however. 2004. Among the studies that have examined the relationship between EI=ECSE services and family outcomes. Downloaded By: [Catholic University Of America] At: 16:35 4 October 2010 Limitations of This Review Two aspects of our inclusionary criteria restricted the number of articles included in this review and should be considered limitations: the presence of an operational or constitutive definition and the inclusion of only . Examining the affect of EI services on family outcomes. Summers. however. abilities. Hebbeler et al.. Lee et al. and work with professionals or advocate for services for their child. research should address how family-centered service delivery affects short-term family outcomes and the larger concept of family quality of life (Turnbull. gender.. (2007) found families with children birth to age 5 with a disability tended to believe they were not receiving enough family services to meet their needs. Consequently.e. Conversely. These studies have not. and access community services and activities) and overall family quality of life.. Specifically. research comparing conceptualizations and implementation of family-centered service delivery and its effect on child and family outcomes is warranted. type and severity of disability) or family (i. policy makers. Although not specifically focused on outcomes of family-centered practice. Epley.e. The impact of EI and ECSE services on family outcomes. 2007) and the Pre-Elementary Education Longitudinal (PEELS) Study (Carlson et al. and Turnbull (2008) found parent ratings of EI services significantly related to specific family outcomes (i. Summers. and program funders in the correlation between family-centered practice and outcomes of services over a decade ago. a significant need for future research is focusing on the outcomes of family-centered processes.. Based on data from the NEILS study. families know their rights and advocate effectively. Interest in the relationship between services and outcomes remains paramount. language. (2007) reported that 90% to 96% of parents agreed or strongly agreed that EI=ESES services had enhanced their ability to meet their child’s basic needs. Bailey et al.e. remains unclear. help their child develop and learn.. understand their child’s strengths. Summers... findings are inconsistent. Turnbull. and cognitive outcomes for children with disabilities. and needs. (2006) and Hebbeler et al. have support systems. Epley et al.

Toward developing standards and measurements for family-centered practice in family support programs. family–professional relationship. & A. In fact. Redefining family support (pp. L. . E. Limiting conceptualizations of family centeredness to those published in peer-reviewed journals resulted in our excluding unpublished dissertations and scholarly presentations. Family-centered practice. primarily reflect the researchers’ perspectives. Given our interest in how education and related fields conceptualize family-centered practice.. and assess not only child outcomes but also family outcomes. L. understand the relationship between family centeredness and outcomes for children with disabilities and their families. Singer. only articles with explicit or relatively easily interpretable definitions were included. Brookes Publishing Co. Olson (Eds. conclusions drawn from this review are tentative. H. Additionally. I. Although this criterion lessened the degree to which our own interpretations of family centeredness were included. definitions of family centeredness. Powers. the emphasis on them has changed. REFERENCES Allen. C. It appears there is also an imbalance in the implementation of family centeredness and the provision of family services. G. CONCLUSION We examined current definitions of family-centered practice using five key elements of Allen and Petr’s (1996) benchmark definition: family as the unit of attention. even those in perspective articles. 57–84). S. R.).Family-Centered Conceptualizations 281 Downloaded By: [Catholic University Of America] At: 16:35 4 October 2010 peer-reviewed journal articles. As a result. Baltimore: Paul H. & Petr. Recommendations and strategies for family-centered practice overwhelmingly focused on relationship qualities and family–professional partnerships. (1996). Our review of articles published during the last decade indicates that though these elements remain central to conceptualizations of family centeredness. In G. and individualized family services. If we are to support young children with disabilities and their families. family choice. family strengths. once focused primarily on family as the unit of attention. A gap likely exists between the conceptualization and implementation of family-centered practice. A second potential limitation is the inclusion of only peer-reviewed journal articles. more implicit understandings of familycentered practice were likely omitted. we must better prepare early childhood professionals for implementing family-centered practice. The provision of services to families received much less attention. inclusion of family choice and a strengths-based perspective in definitions of family centeredness has increased whereas family as the unit of attention has declined. is now largely associated with family choice.

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