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eJOURNAL OF THE INTERNATIONAL CHILD AND YOUTH CARE NETWORK (CYC-Net) – ISSN 1605-7406

ISSUE 66 JULY 2004 •  CONTENTS •  HOME PAGE

administration and staff

Parents and the child and youth agency

Hy Resnick

Parents whose children are in care often feel neglected (and also underutilized) by the staff of the agency serving their children . They have useful information about the agency’s effectiveness with their children as well its communication with the parents but are rarely given the opportunity to provide this information to the agency. And I might add that sometimes (often?) this information is not received with the interest or respect it deserves. This lack of opportunity can turn a parent from a partner in the treatment of their children to a critic of the agency and a reluctant participant in the work of the agency.

A method I’ve developed in working with agencies who recognized the need for better communication with parents made use of a modified “fishbowl” model. It not only improved their relationship with parents, but also gave the agency valuable information about the agency’s own performance vis à vis its work with parents and the children.

The method has three main steps:

A. Invitation to selected parents

A letter from the agency executive invited parents to participate in a half-day event with agency personnel and other parents to provide feedback to the agency about its strengths and weaknesses.

B. The half-day event had a number of steps:

  1. A brief meeting of the invited parents with the executive to clarify the purpose of the day and its procedures — usually about 30- 45 minutes

  2. A fishbowl process where parents are seated inside a circle and agency personnel are seated outside the circle

First tasks of the two groups

Second task of the two groups

Final session for all

A general meeting of all the day’s participants is then held at which time the agency executive announces the results of their lunch meeting. She/he identifies which problems can be solved today and which will need more time.  Appreciation is expressed by staff and management to the parents for their participation and openness.  An evaluation sheet is passed around for parents and agency personnel to fill out and handed in.   [This stage usually 45 to 60 minutes.]

C. Reporting back

The event ends with the agency executive announcing that the day’s discussion and its outcome will be reported in a letter to all parents.