Parents with Disabilities in Child Welfare, Part 3: Social Supports

Hello and welcome to the series of online
training modules on parents with disabilities in child welfare. My name is Mingyang Zheng. I am a doctoral student at the School of Social
Work, University of Minnesota. This training is a collaborative effort between
faculty at the University of Minnesota School of Social Work and the Center for Advanced
Studies in Child Welfare at the School of Social Work at the University of Minnesota. This training module is part of an online
training effort that covers a wide range of topic areas in child welfare. This training module, Parents with Disabilities
in Child welfare, has three parts, each part is about 20 minutes. In part one, we talked about historical context
and prevalence for parents with disabilities in child welfare. In part two, we talked about parents with
disabilities and related policies. Now, in part three, we will discuss social supports
for parents with disabilities. There are three learning objectives for this online module. People who complete this training will be able to understand the definition of parental supports. Identify types of parental supports. Lastly, understand the research regarding parental supports. The concept of supports is important to understand
how all people interact, and is particularly important and useful for thinking about how we provide services to people with disabilities. In fact, the introduction of the idea of individuals
with intellectual and developmental disabilities as needing supports was a crucial step for
the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities because this concept
is different from the medical model of disability which is focused on individuals’ deficiencies. In the 11th edition of the American Association of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities manual, Schalock and his colleagues defined supports as “resources and strategies that aim to promote the development,
education, interests, and personal well-being of a person and that enhance individual functioning.” So why are supports important? Because supports help people
participate in a variety of life domains including social roles. Social roles here are defined as
“valid activities considered normative for a specific age group.” So, think about the social roles that we have. Using myself as an example, I am a doctoral
student; and I’m an employee of the University of Minnesota; I am a neighbor; I am a friend;
I am also a member of a religious group; I am also a family member. So now take a minute and think about the social
roles that you have. For many adults, one of the most important social roles is parenting. However, the social role of parenting,
has received little attention in the field of parental disabilities. Parental supports for parenting activities
for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities can be defined similarly to the
general notion of supports developed by the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. As supports in general for this population
are thought to be technologies or personal supports that enhance individual functioning. Using the same definition, parental supports are simply technologies or personal supports that enhance family functioning
in families headed by a parent or guardian with a disability. Technologies can include any adaptive equipment
that may assist an individual in parenting, such as adaptive cribs, child care equipment,
cooking/feeding equipment, or a smart phone or personal digital assistant that presents
step-by-step guidelines for parenting activities. Personal supports include any support designed
to assist parents or guardians with a disability to compensate for those aspects of their disability
that affect their ability to care for their child or children and will enable them to
fulfill their parenting responsibilities. These types of personal supports could include
day care services, respite care, a co-parent or a parent mentor, in-home parenting training,
money management assistance, homework tutoring, housekeeping, safety planning, or even long-term
family foster care. Similar to the general notion that supports
help individuals with disabilities fill the gaps between their own competencies and environmental
demands, parental supports are designed to help individuals with disabilities fill their
gaps in parenting competencies and environmental demands related to parenting. Next, we will talk about some of the evidence
based supports for parents with disabilities. The first one is parent education programs. Feldman and his colleagues conducted a study
to evaluate the effects of a home-based parent training program for mothers with intellectual
disabilities. In their study, they recruited a group of
28 mothers who were labeled with intellectual disabilities and a group of 38 mothers who
did not have intellectual disabilities. In the pre-test, they found that mothers with
intellectual disabilities showed significantly fewer positive mother child interactions and
child verbalization and vocalizations than mothers without intellectual disabilities. However, when mothers with intellectual disabilities
received interaction training, such as readings, discussions, modeling, and feedback, they
will no longer show fewer positive mother-child interactions and child vocalizations and verbalizations
than the mothers without intellectual disabilities. Social network is another important support
for parents with disabilities. Here are studies showing that the
size and quality of social networks impact parenting. Group intervention is also useful for parents
with disabilities Group intervention supports good parenting because it expands social networks. And it also increases social participation among parents with disabilities. For example, a study showed that after three months of program participation, mothers usually felt less social
isolation and parenting stress. Group participation also changed for better
self-perceptions, social support networks, such as number of friends, and quality
of life of mothers with a disability with no immediate benefit to the children. Studies have shown that parents with a disability respond to social supports and supportive services and training can make a difference in maximizing
competent parenting. However, parents with disabilities are facing a lot of challenges in accessing supports. For example, assistive devices, which is a
form of technologies, can maximize parents’ functional performance. However, research showed that parents face
barriers in accessing the right assistive devices and face barriers with regards to
the understanding of human service professionals on the importance of assistive devices. Moreover, studies also show that lack of assistive devices affects parenting. Also, there are currently few formal sources of support to assist parents with intellectual and developmental disabilities
in the role of parenting. Of the few programs that do exist across the
country, a number of them focus on increasing individual parenting ability rather than providing
ongoing parental support to assist parents with disabilities and their children. One of the reasons for this is that funding
streams are currently not designed to support parenting. Funding streams are designed to support individual
support to enhance individual functioning but not parental support to enhance family
functioning. Thus, many parents with disabilities have
to rely on informal supports such as from family members, friends, neighbors, or
people in their religious communities. While many people with disabilities prefer
these types of supports, there are also big gaps in formal supports that could assist
them with parenting. Parents with disabilities can be at high risk
for losing their children in the child welfare system. Some tools are very useful in measuring individual supports such as the Supports Intensity Scale. But they’re not specifically designed for parents
with disabilities. Review the following sample case study applying
the Supports Intensity Scale. Think of how a scale like this could be modified
for working with parents with disabilities, to help determine the supports needed and/or
received by parents with disabilities to enhance family functioning. It makes little sense to assess individual functioning or develop individual supports for individual functioning when a person with a disability is a parent, because the parent-child relationship is a paramount part of a parent’s life. There are also some positive changes in the
child welfare system in relation to parents with disabilities. For example, child welfare agencies are slowly recognizing the concept of interdependent parenting and shifting the focus from individual functioning
to family functioning. New models of child welfare such as family
assessment are more in-line with the concept of parental supports and interdependent parenting. Over the last decades, several states have
changed their child welfare statues to include language requiring courts to take into account
the support needs that individual parents can use to successfully parent. For example, the state of Idaho was the first state to include affirmative action in its state child welfare statutes, resulting from a multiple year advocacy campaign
culminating in the passage of new laws in early 2002 and 2003. Idaho’s law now mandates that reasonable
efforts to prevent foster care placement or termination of parental rights involving a
parent or guardian with a disability shall include, quote, the “consideration of adaptive equipment or support services that may enable the parent to remedy the reasons for removal of the child.” The notion of parental support fits well within
the social model of disability and the general conceptions of individual support promoted
by AAIDD. The concept of parental support also fits
well within the person-in-the-environment paradigm of social work and its ecological
model. Finally, the concept of parental supports
also fits well within the new trends in child welfare such as alternative response or family
assessment. Thus, while there are currently few formal
programs supporting parents with disabilities and little funding sources to pay for formal
and informal parental supports, the new state statutes that are emerging represent a shift
in our thinking about parental support for parents with disabilities. Innovative programs supporting parents with
disabilities may emerge as child welfare agencies are increasingly required to examine how parents
with disabilities can parent their children with the assistance of parental supports. Now we have reached the end of this introductory
module on parental supports for parents with disabilities. In this module, we talked about individual
and parental supports. We covered types of parental supports for
parents with disabilities and we also discussed the challenges and the new development of
parental supports of parents with disabilities.

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