This series of short essays is intended as an introduction to TAC or as a refresher course for everyone around babies and infants who need special support for their development and learning. The article can be translated for use in newsletters, networks and websites in any country
FOURTH PRINCIPLE: Each TAC comprises the small number of people who have the most regular and practical involvement with the child. Each member gets support from the others and everyone has an equal voice. This is horizontal collaborative teamwork.
There is no point in the TAC process if it does not support, inform and empower parents and other family members. TAC meetings are always in a positive mood even when there are very difficult issues to discuss. Practitioners have the professional and demanding task of being honest and sensitive at the same time. The aim is for each TAC meeting to be a positive experience in which parents feel listened to, feel they have an active part in planning support for the child and family and feel strengthened for the tasks that lie ahead today and tomorrow. Part of this is the very human process of people supporting each other. This can require personal qualities that are different from professional skills.
Many of the babies and infants who get TAC support have complex multifaceted conditions for which there are no ready-made programmes and many of the families are in very difficult and challenging situations. Practitioners who try bravely to support a child and family on their own might soon be overwhelmed. TAC meetings are designed so that practitioners, as well as supporting parents, can support each other. No one has to feel they are struggling on their own. This means that practitioners need to be able to relate to each other with honesty, empathy, trust and respect – the same qualities they must aspire to in their relationships with parents and other family members. These relationships take time to develop.
Each TAC will have people from a variety of disciplines and agencies. This means it cannot have a manger as if it were in a traditional vertical hierarchy. Instead it has the flat power structure of horizontal teamwork. The following are extracts from ‘Horizontal teamwork in a vertical world’:
‘Each TAC is a horizontal structure because the child’s TAC practitioners are temporarily removed from their hierarchical relationships and work with each other and with the parents as equals. Each TAC has a ‘facilitator’ to help the meeting run well and arrive at an agreed action plan, rather than a team ‘manager’ or ‘leader’ who exercises authority. This model works well with neurologically impaired infants in the UK and other countries and has been successfully modified for older children and young people with other needs. A strong appeal of the TAC model for both families and practitioners is that the phrase ‘team around the child’ itself seems to carry the solution to disorganisation and fragmentation and, in requiring people around the same child to talk to each other, accords with common sense. It is the model people who do not know better would naïvely assume to be the usual approach.’ (Page 23)
‘Horizontal teamwork brings an awareness of the interconnectedness of all elements of the child’s or service user’s situation and needs enabling the practitioner to contribute naturally and almost instinctively to a whole approach.’ (Page 59)
‘While working with the child and family, practitioners have the reassurance that their work and the multiagency action plan of which their work is part has been discussed and agreed collectively in the child’s TAC.’ (Page 60)
‘TAC is an excellent training ground for practitioners who have not worked before with children with a multifaceted condition. Managers and practitioners will need to consider how far it is appropriate for newly qualified practitioners to work in horizontal teams before they have become confident in their practice and have developed a solid foundation for their work.’ (Page 60)
For an account of relationships based in honesty, empathy, trust and respect, see ‘The Family Partnership Model’ on page 61 of ‘Early Childhood Intervention without Tears: Improved support for infants with disabilities and their families’.
First TAC Principle here
Second TAC Principle here
Third TAC Principle here