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Discuss your expectations and assumptions. One of the most helpful steps in forming family-professional partnerships is understanding and acknowledging expectations spoken and unspoken , assumptions, and preconceived notions about one another. Once this dialogue occurs, we discover that parents and professionals harbor the same expectations of each other, expectations based on the values of honesty, dignity, and respect. This step in the process is even more important when parents and professionals work together on a daily basis as peers.

For example, to many professionals and traditional systems, the idea of hiring a parent into a position that pays the same salary as a licensed professional is absurd. As a result, unexpected bureaucratic obstacles may be in place to prevent the hiring process from occurring. In addition, many traditional bureaucracies are built on a hierarchical system of management, with supervision coming from the top down.

Consequently, when a parent is hired to fill a management role, the bureaucracy expects the person to be supervised by a professional. The professional must be willing to break out of the traditional mode of operation and partner with the parent to advocate for change as a team.

Parents and professionals should talk openly with one another about why these expectations, assumptions, and notions are there in order to seek to understand and then change the way business is done. It is the responsibility of both the parent and the professional to promote the success of the partnership by providing support, education, training, and technical assistance to each other.

This requires open communication between the individuals regarding what is expected. Admit to the anger, frustration, pain, and disappointments of the past and redirect those feelings to use them in a positive way. This step in the process is crucial in beginning to form effective family-professional partnerships. It is often difficult for professionals to hear families speak in strong, angry voices about how the system has failed to meet their needs or how they have suffered because their children did not receive appropriate services.

It is often difficult to know how to respond in these situations. You may feel compelled to become defensive or go into detail about why the system was unable to deliver. As a representative of the system, you must take responsibility for failing to meet the families' needs and ask for their assistance in changing the system for the better. At this point, it is crucial for you to walk in the families' shoes.

Families are more than happy to provide input into being part of the solution - especially if they are listened to and their pain has been acknowledged.

Take a Walk in My Shoes: Jane Elliott

Professionals must give families the opportunity to voice their feelings and then redirect them in positive ways in order to assist in the change process. For example, a parent in our community struggled for years with the devastation she felt upon giving up custody of her special-needs child, which she did at the urging of others. Her painful struggle propelled her to become a community spokesperson.

Walk In My Shoes

She now advocates on behalf of special-needs children and their families who are in situations similar to her own. She has since been appointed to local task forces and state legislative committees. Her knowledge and experiences have been invaluable to the change process. Families often say that it is through the pain of past experiences that they have gained the internal strength and capacity to become stronger and thus more determined to be part of the solution.

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When families are truly partners with professionals, the difficult experiences of the past are transformed into the strengths and hopes for meeting the vision of the future. Maintain a healthy sense of humor and remember to focus on strengths. Developing partnerships is hard work and mistakes are not uncommon.

Common Sense says

It is important to focus on strengths, while also realizing that we learn from our mistakes. It is okay to laugh at our own mistakes, as long as we also learn from them. Focusing on strengths can involve time set aside for sharing sessions. Parents and professionals may also want to use inspirational books, jokes, pictures, and quotes cut out of magazines to lighten the mood. These are some ways to take a moment to focus on life outside of the work environment and regroup if tensions are running high.

Agree to disagree and mutually resolve differences.

Walk in My Shoes

The popular saying "You can never please all the people all the time" is especially true when people with varied experiences, assumptions, expectations, opinions, and ideas are brought together on a project. We always make it a rule to respect the views of others.

We talk through disagreements one-on-one, and often ask someone we trust to work through the conflict with us. If you cannot mutually agree, you must agree to disagree, acknowledge that you are doing so, and not take the interaction personally. Acknowledge and celebrate the experiences that have brought you to where you are today. Take time out on a regular basis to reflect on the accomplishments that you and your organization have made. We try to start every staff meeting by asking participants to note the successes they have had. Write down these success stories and keep them on hand to use as catalysts for moving forward, especially on the days when work is particularly difficult.

Acknowledge and celebrate cultural differences. Plan both formal and informal ways of gaining knowledge and understanding of cultural differences. Monthly potluck lunches that focus on ethnic foods are a good informal option. Once you have decided the type of Walk a Mile in My Shoes event you want to organise, you will need to get planning.

Walk a Mile in My Shoes | Sands - Stillbirth and neonatal death charity

Small, intimate walks on your own or with just close family or friends can be kept simple and you can ask people to make a donation in memory of your baby to take part. Online, in your local community, your local Newspaper.

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Have a look at our Walk a Mile in My Shoes support pack for extra help to get your fundraising off to a flying start! Please register your Walk a Mile in My Shoes event by contacting us at e: teamsands sands.

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