HELPING PARENTS WITH INTELLECTUAL DISABILITIES
Parents with intellectual disabilities often experience difficulties in carrying out the daily tasks associated with parenting due to their own learning needs. Research has shown that children of parents with intellectual disabilities may be at greater risk for foster care placement due to these parenting difficulties. Intellectual disabilities refer to low performance on intelligence testing and difficulties in daily self-help skills. Parents with intellectual disabilities often experience difficulties in carrying out the daily tasks associated with parenting such as ensuring adequate child care, health and safety, and have difficulty solving problems. Service providers are often the first support personnel to recognize the specific needs of parents with intellectual disabilities but are often unsure about how to best help them. Research has shown that parents with intellectual disabilities are most receptive to services that are individualized to meet their specific learning styles.
Preventive Services are designed to prevent child maltreatment and help keep families intact. WIHD currently offers one preventive program in conjunction with the Westchester County Department of Social Services, Project IMPACT (Improving Parenting Achievements Together).
PROJECT IMPACT provides intensive, in-home services for parents with cognitive and learning disabilities. The program curriculum was created in 2006 at WIHD by Trupti Rao, Psy.D. and Michelle Heller, Ph.D. to offer specialized supports in the areas of basic childcare, child management, home management, parent/child interaction, parent advocacy, and problem solving. Skills are taught by master’s level social workers using a combination of verbal instruction, visual aids, hands-on practice, modeling, and repetition, offered at an intensive level: three days a week for 4-6 months.
In order to be eligible for the program, parents must be involved with Westchester County’s Department of Social Services (DSS), have children in their care, and have written documentation of either an IQ of 80 or less and/or a history of significant learning difficulties.
SUPPORTING PARENTS WITH INTELLECTUAL DISABILITIES
We hope that these suggested strategies and resources can be incorporated into your daily practice with parents with cognitive disabilities.
SUPPORTING PARENTS WITH INTELLECTUAL DISABILITIES: A PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR PROVIDERS
PROVIDER STRATEGIES FOR WORKING WITH PARENTS WITH INTELLECTUAL DISABILITIES
PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!
Some parents may not share that they are nervous about making phone calls, but they may be. Several parents in our program, for example, would call their caseworker’s phone number and then hang up without leaving a voice mail message. A discussion with the parents indicated that they were nervous about what to say on a voice mail message. Their service provider worked with them on creating a script of what information to leave on the message (name, phone number, and reason for the call) and what questions they wanted to ask, and then helped them role-play leaving a message. The example goes to show that a little practice can go a long way!
MAKE IT VISUAL
Certain routines, such as eating, getting dressed, and getting out the door in the morning, can be challenging for even the most organized of parents. Creating a simple visual schedule or checklist of activities that need to be completed, using real pictures or even ClipArt, can help parents accomplish routines more effectively.
TALKING IT OUT…EVEN THE SIMPLE STUFF
A mother would not allow her 16-year-old daughter to take the bus to the local mall. When her parenting clinician gave her the opportunity to discuss her feelings about this, the mother was able to share that she herself was fearful of public transportation and was afraid that her daughter would also not be able to handle taking a bus independently. Her clinician was able to help her understand that her daughter successfully takes the bus to and from school every day, and would also be able to successfully navigate a trip to the mall. The mother ultimately agreed to give permission for her daughter to ride the bus herself. Giving the mother an opportunity to discuss her own fears helped her to separate her own strengths and areas of need, from her daughter’s strengths and areas of need.
A FOLDER AND CALENDAR CAN GO A LONG WAY
Parents can accumulate a large number of papers in regards to their children: school calendars, education plans, evaluation reports, permission slips, medical records, immunization histories, prescriptions, and more! Many of the parents in our program are provided with accordion file folders and taught ways that they keep important documents in one place. Similarly, providing parents with a calendar can help them keep track of all the appointments they have for themselves and their children. Encouraging parents to hang the calendars up in a highly visible location, such as on the fridge or by the front door, can also assist in ensuring that all appointments are written down.
Children involved with the child welfare system are at risk for a range of physical, developmental and emotional health problems. Children must be provided with individualized, comprehensive and well coordinated health care, developmental and mental health assessments and follow up care in order to reach their fullest potential. Westchester Institute for Human Development offers a range of personalized support services.
Using a variety of standardized assessment tools and methods we evaluate every child who enters family foster care in Westchester County. Results of the evaluations are shared with casework staff at the Department of Social Services and are used to identify areas of concern and target service referrals appropriately. Following our evaluation, children are frequently referred for Early Intervention, Head Start, Special Education evaluations, Speech/Language or Audiology services, psychiatric evaluations and mental health treatment, tutoring, after-school programs and/or specialized medical care.Westchester County. The program works in collaboration with community providers to ensure that families receive wraparound community services. The family’s functioning is monitored up to two years post-discharge.
FOSTER HOME EVALUATIONS
Shortly after a child is placed in foster care, they are visited by a post-doctoral psychology fellow who conducts an “in home assessment” to examine the goodness of fit between the child and the foster home. The focus of this assessment is on the child’s fit within the foster home and is meant to quickly identify concerns so that steps can be taken to address the needs of the child. Our findings are shared with both the foster parent and the Department of Social Services.
When parents are actively planning for the return of their child(ren) from foster care, WIHD conducts a comprehensive evaluation of the parent(s) at the request of the Department of Social Services. These assessments include the use of standardized assessment measures as well as an observation of the parent-child interaction. Findings from these evaluations are shared with the Department of Social Services and used to develop meaningful permanency plans for families.
Our staff of highly skilled and experienced clinicians provides treatment services to children in foster care and their birth families. Our clinicians provide individual, group, sibling and family therapy using different modalities of non-directive and directive therapy to fit the needs of each child and family we serve.
Hands-on parent training is provided to parents alongside their children using a structured curriculum that builds upon parents’ skills, teaches them skills they lack and improves a parents’ capacity to safely care for and nurture their child(dren).
SUPPORT FOR FOSTER PARENTS
THE ENHANCED FOSTER CARE PROGRAM
The goal of the Enhanced Foster Care Program is to help prevent placement disruptions which result in children being moved to other foster homes or a higher level of care. An experienced clinician interacts regularly with the family to provide support and to offer strategies to help the foster parents gain a better understanding of the developmental and behavioral challenges that children in their home may display. Outside activities provided by a socio-therapist offer respite to foster parents and an opportunity for children to enhance their socialization skills.
PEDIATRIC MEDICAL SERVICES
WIHD provides medical management and comprehensive medical services to the Department of Social Services (DSS) Pediatric Unit. The Pediatric Unit functions as the “Medical Home” for approximately 300 children in Westchester County DSS family foster care, including those on trial discharge. Health supervision and medical services follow the guidelines established by the American Academy of Pediatrics, Bright Futures, and Working Together, the New York State – Office of Children and Family Services manual for health care services for children in foster care.
As a Medical Home, the Pediatric Unit provides comprehensive, quality, culturally-sensitive medical care, coordinating all specialty medical services, and ensuring that children have access to their complete medical health history upon discharge from foster care.
The Pediatric Unit is located at 112 East Post Road, 4th Floor, in White Plains. The office is staffed daily by a board-certified pediatrician and one or more registered nurses. Children are seen during regular business hours for scheduled check-ups and sick visits, and early morning or evening appointments are offered three times per month. A pediatrician is available at all times by phone for concerns that arise after hours, on weekends and on holidays. Children can be seen on Sunday mornings at a private office in Hawthorne, NY for urgent sick visits.
DSS PEDIATRIC UNIT CONTACT INFORMATION
Phone Number: (914) 995-5379
Fax number: (914) 995-3045
Since 2006, the Educational Care Coordination (ECC) program has provided educational coordination for all children in family foster care in Westchester County. We strive to minimize disruptions in a child’s education when they enter or return home from foster care and advocate for appropriate services in order to meet children’s educational and developmental needs by:
Obtaining all previous school and medical records for each child entering foster care.
Creating a Pupil Summary Form for each child entering foster care that summarizes all relevant academic and developmental information in an easy to access format. Providing recommendations to caseworkers, foster parents and schools so that a child receives the most appropriate academic placement and services. Attending IFSP, CPSE, CSE and other school meetings to advocate for appropriate educational services
Referring at-risk students for academic remediation services.
The Learning Evaluation and Achievement Program (LEAP) provides a range of interdisciplinary assessment and treatment services to children in family foster care who are experiencing problems in academic performance due to learning disabilities, or other developmental issues that impact learning. Individualized tutoring is provided by LEAP staff in our after school program located at WIHD’s Valhalla location. Instruction based on the most recent research on effective teaching is used to design and implement individual, developmentally appropriate programs to strengthen academic skills. Students receive tutoring in a 1:1 setting.
ADULT CAREER AND CONTINUING EDUCATION SERVICES VOCATIONAL REHABILITATION (ACCES VR)
AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION LEGAL CENTER FOR FOSTER CARE & EDUCATION
CASEY FAMILY PROGRAMS
NATIONAL HEAD START ASSOCIATION
NEW YORK STATE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
NEW YORK STATE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH – EARLY INTERVENTION PROGRAM
THE FOSTERING CONNECTIONS RESOURCE CENTER
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION’S OFFICE FOR CIVIL RIGHTS
WESTCHESTER COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT EARLY INTERVENTION PROGRAM
EVERY FAMILY COUNTS AFTERCARE PROGRAM
The “Every Family Counts” program provides in-home supports and parenting services for families whose children are exiting foster care in Westchester County. The program works in collaboration with community providers to ensure that families receive wraparound community services. The family’s functioning is monitored up to two years post-discharge.
The Program Offers A Variety Of Home-Based Services Including:
- Parenting Support
- Individual And Family Counseling
- Respite And Recreation
- Short-Term Psychiatric Care
- Educational Advocacy
- Case Management
The Every Family Counts Aftercare Program maintains a multidisciplinary team including a psychologist, social workers, case managers, and a socio-therapist.
Since the program started in 2006, measuring the outcomes and efficacy have been an important part of the program. Ongoing program evaluation has been conducted by Fellows from the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) Program
The following projects have been completed to date:
AfterCare Services: Families Reuniting After Foster Care Placement
This 2006 project looked at the early outcomes of the program and the success of the program was demonstrated with a re-entry rate of 4.6%. VIEW PROJECT
Evaluating Parent Satisfaction with Service Provided During and After Foster Care Placement
This 2009 project looked at parent satisfaction with services that were provided during and after foster care placement. Parent satisfaction was measured to assess perceived improvement of family functioning and improvement in parenting and other skills, and to inform program development. Participants were asked to complete a satisfaction survey following parent training services while their children were in foster care. Families who completed the post discharge program were asked to participate in a focus group. Themes from both the Parent-Child Program questionnaires and the EFC Program focus group and interviews include overall positive experiences with both programs, feelings of initial apprehension upon program referral, skills acquired in the areas of communication and interpersonal development, positive experiences with staff throughout the program as well as negative experiences with other systems. VIEW PROJECT
The Every Family Counts AfterCare Program: Examining Outcomes of a Post-Discharge Foster Care Program and Factors Contributing to Successful Reunification
Currently (2012), it is being demonstrated that the Every Family Counts Aftercare Program has a successful re-entry rate of 7.3% which is lower than the National Standard of 8.6% and lower than Westchester County’s expectation for the program, which is 8%. VIEW PROJECT
ADOPTED FOSTER CHILDREN AND THEIR FAMILIES
Adoption is an ongoing process in which families may look for support years after the adoption occurs. While many adoptive parents have parented children of their own, parenting an adopted child from the foster care system is a very different experience. Many parents find themselves looking for support and connection with those who have had similar experiences. Children who have been adopted through foster care may present with needs such as multiple traumas, developmental delays, and challenging behaviors. Research has shown that when families know that there are services available to them following adoption; they are more likely to make a commitment to adopt.
Westchester’s Resource for Adoption Program (WRAP) grew out of a need expressed by foster parents who were cautious about adopting children for fear of losing critical supports that are available to them during a foster care placement. Through close collaboration with the Westchester County Department of Social Services, WRAP provides services to families who have adopted children from the Westchester County foster care system. The program offers short-term clinical supports, information and referral resources through this website and helpline, training for families and professionals, an onsite lending library and support groups for adoptive parents.
WRAP – Westchester’s Resource for Adoption Program
WRAP was developed in conjunction with the Westchester County Department of Social Services (DSS) in order to ensure that adoptive families have support available to them. WRAP provides a wide range of resources including clinical consultation, support services, an adoption library, and training. View WRAP Resources