What is Family Support?

Resources: Articles & Information

What is Family Support?
by National Center for Family Support, Portland OR

Family supoport means different things to different families. Since the
early 1980’s, an increasing number of states have begun to offer at least
some services to families of people with disabilities. And now, more progressive
states deliver a wide array of supports and services that are:

  • Family driven: Each family leads the decision-making process
    concerning the type and amount of support they receive;
  • Easy to use: Families are not overwhelmed by paperwork and
    red tape; and
  • Flexible: Families can choose supports and services based on
    their individual needs and preferences.

These famiy support programs make use of structures, services and supports,
as well as informal or natural supports in the community. The idea is
to provide whatever it takes for families of people with disabilities
so that they can live as much like other families as possible. The supports
that families receive need to be dertermined by the individual family
based on their culture, values, preferences and specific needs at any
given time.

Providing useful support can involve any number of types of services
and/or support. These supports might be aimed not only at the person with
a disability, but at other family members as well. Also, it is important
to remember that it is not just what is offered to families, but how
it is offered.

The main goals of family support are:

  • To keep families together until the person with a disability chooses
    to live independently;
  • To enhance a family’s ability to meet the many needs of their family
    member with a disability;
  • To improve the quality of supports to families while minimizing the
    need and the cost of out-of-home placement;
  • To allow the family to participate in integrated leisure, recreational,
    and social activites; and
  • To make a positive difference in the life of the person with a disability
    as well as the lives of all family members.

Quality family support programs should:

  • Focus on the entire family;
  • Change as the family’s needs, roles, and ages change;
  • Encourage familes to express their own needs and decide how their
    needs will be met;
  • Treat people with disabilities and their families with dignity by
    respecting their individual choices and preferences;
  • Respect cultural, economic, social, and spiritual differences;
  • Encourage families to use the natural community resources; and
  • Provide supports and servives that are easy to find and easy to use

Potential Family Supports

Centered Around the Person with Disabilities:

  • Diagnosis and assessment
  • Therapeutic services
  • Medical/dental services
  • Home health care
  • Recreational opportunities
  • Special clothing and diets
  • Transportation
  • Adaptive equipment
  • Housing adaptations
  • Adequate health insurance

Centered Around Family Members:

  • Information and referral
  • Service coordination
  • Temporary relief/respite
  • Family counseling
  • Parent/sibling education
  • Day of family member care
  • Financial assistance
  • Future financial planning
  • Mutual support groups
  • Housing modification

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