Family Support Partner
One of the most powerful things, for a parent or guardian who is raising a child with mental health or behavioral health disorders, is to find another parent who understands what it’s like to live this life. This is the premise for a Family Support Partner (FSP) in the High Fidelity Wraparound (HFW) team. This position offers various levels of support for families based on the family’s needs and HFW plan. They work closely with the HFW Facilitator to support positive outcomes for the family. The FSP may have experienced High Fidelity Wraparound with their family. The FSP should always be someone who has raised a child or youth with complex emotional needs.
Earlier versions of HFW did not always include the Family Support Partner roles. However, many family organizations began to take an active role in HFW. At times, Family Support Partners work for family organizations and are then assigned to HFW teams on a contractual basis. In other situations, Family Support Partners work for the same agency as the HFW Facilitator and are often supervised by the same person.
Family Support Partners can add value to HFW for several reasons. As someone who has experienced similar challenges, they can often engage parents and guardians at levels other people cannot. Family Support Partners can provide support to the Ten Principles and the Theory of Change. For example, the HFW Facilitator and family may not be able to identify natural supports for the team through the Strength and Needs Cultural Discovery (SNCD) or "Discovery" process. The FSP might then be assigned to work more extensively with the family to help them identify and engage some natural supports in the process as it moves forward. Another way in which the FSP can be useful is helping the family navigate uncomfortable environments. If the family is intimidated by school meetings, the FSP might help them understand their rights, role play meetings, attend meetings, and plan how they will handle future meetings.
The functions of the Family Support Partner are many and varied, but can be placed into three categories:
1. The Family Support Partner is a member of the HFW team and supports the Facilitator to accomplish HFW with the family.
The HFW Facilitator has primary responsibility for the HFW process. Success for youth and families, however, can often be improved when the HFW Facilitator and HFW Family Support Partner work as a team to make sure the HFW phases, activities and the Theory of Change process is moving towards recovery and successful outcomes. Some families may engage with the FSP more easily, and thus the FSP obtains information that strengthens the Discovery. The Facilitator and the FSP can work as a team to build upon their own strengths, and the strengths and preferences of the family to make HFW work.
2. The Family Support Partner may provide direct support for those families who may not want the additional people on their team or in their home.
HFW Family Support Partners can provide limited direct support to help the youth and family with their action steps on the HFW plan. This can include working with the family and natural supports to strengthen the natural support system, as well as preparing the family to attend meetings with school, child welfare or HFW planning meetings. Support can come in a variety of ways for the family as identified by the team, including the youth and family.
3. The High Fidelity Wraparound Family Support Partner can work to connect families to community resources, and with other families facing similar challenges.
Helping families connect with necessary resources is an important role of the HFW Family Support Partner for some families. Some families already have strong natural support systems and may not want this. For other families, the Family Support Partner can help them identify community resources such as housing supports, recreation programs, child care providers, religious institutions or community organizations. It can mean helping them to re-establish relationships with extended family and natural supports, or assistance in reaching out to new natural supports. The FSP can also connect the family to other families and family support groups, and orient and recruit interested families to become involved in community advocacy and system level work.
Characteristics of Effective Family Support Partners
- Strong communication skills
- Ability to work with team members including youth, family members and behavioral health professionals.
- Team player
- Outspoken, respectful, flexible, motivated, self-disciplined
- Sense of humor, good common sense
- Clean background check
- Ability to share story and experiences appropriately, with passion not emotion
- Good working knowledge of children’s services
- Familiar with community and resources
- Experience navigating two or more child-serving systems
- Knowledge of independent living skills
- Ability to take constructive criticism
- Good time management and organization skills
- Ability to establish relationships with supportive agencies
- Ability to understand and respect cultures and family differences
- Skilled at leading and inspiring others through dedication and example