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
TENTH (and final) PRINCIPLE: Parents are not treated as passive recipients of early child and family support. They can work at the grassroots alongside practitioners to create a local TAC system that counters institutional attitudes.
Parents of all children have a right to be fully involved in decisions about the health, education and wellbeing of their children. It is logical and natural for parents to be included in their child’s TAC as genuinely equal partners. It is equally appropriate for representative parents and family members to be involved in promoting, evaluating and improving early child and family support in their city, region or country.
This is not common practice in my experience. Instead parents, siblings and grandparents can be organisationally discounted: generally treated as lesser beings by the professionals with elements of professional snobbery; thought incompetent to contribute in any real way to discussions about how early child and family support is provided; excluded by default from important meetings about service provision.
The injustice of this becomes clearer when we imagine keeping black people out of discussions about racial equality or excluding women from discussions of supposed male superiority. With this context, I am presenting the children and families I am talking about in this book as an oppressed, neglected and marginalised minority.
For parents and other family members to have their rightful place in developing early child and family support, it is necessary to counter out-dated institutional attitudes that are often strongest in more highly paid people and more common in medical services than in nurseries and schools. In ‘Bringing up babies and infants who have very special needs’ I offered my working definition of ‘institutional’:
‘I am using the word institutional to characterise provision that is impersonal, inflexible, meeting the needs of agencies rather than of children and families, neglectful of human rights, and persisting only because it is the cheapest and easiest option. My description of out-dated support is meant as a comment on how some agencies model their support systems and is not meant to characterise the practitioners working in those systems. I have met very many genuine, sensitive and empathetic practitioners in both traditional and modern agencies.’ Page 77.
During the last one hundred years in the UK, disabled women and men and members of their families and friends have been very powerful in changing how disability is thought about. New national or local organisations have been established to campaign for rights and to provide support. This has greatly influenced how public services operate – with much still to be done.
In the same way, parents and other family members can be very powerful when they get together to enact change in early child and family support. This must include parents and family members whose children have grown beyond infancy and willing parents whose child has died. I suggest family members and practitioners getting together at the grass roots to take power with each other to influence how effective integrated early child and family support is created, managed and resourced in their city, region or country.
I am not suggesting this is an easy task but I see no other way to move these children and families from society’s margins and accelerate the pace of change.
Peter Limbrick, August 2021