Principles for Providing Family-Centered Care

Working with families means actively engaging them in decision-making, connecting them to other families, and respecting their goals and background. This fact sheet provides disabilities coordinators, teachers and other staff with the principles that guide family-centered care in disability services in Head Start programs.

The following is an excerpt from Including Children with Significant Disabilities in Head Start.

Head Start staff can strengthen their partnerships with families and promote family centered care by incorporating the following principles into practice and policy:

  • Recognize that the family is the constant in a child's life, while the program, staff, and services within the delivery system change over time.

  • Actively solicit and respond to the family's preferences, questions, and needs.

  • Exchange complete and unbiased information with families which takes into account their different needs and coping strategies.

  • Honor individual, family, and cultural diversity and strengths.

  • Assure that the program's support systems are flexible, accessible, comprehensive, and responsive to the needs of all children and their families.

  • Facilitate and encourage family-to-family support and networking.

  • Strengthen family partnerships at all levels in the way you:
  • care for children with disabilities and their families
  • develop, implement, evaluate, and refine programs for children with disabilities
  • form and strengthen policies for children with disabilities and their families.
  • Appreciate families as families and children as children. Recognize that all families and children possess a wide range of strengths, concerns, emotions, and aspirations beyond their need for specialized health and educational services and support.

Adapted with permission from T. Shelton and J. Stepanek. 1994. Family-Centered Care for Children Needing Specialized Health and Developmental Services. Mount Royal, NJ: Association for the Care of Children's Health.

"Principles for Providing Family-Centered Care." Including Children with Significant Disabilities in Head Start. Training Guides for the Head Start Learning Community. HHS/ACF/ACYF/HSB. 1998. English.

Last Reviewed: December 2009

Last Updated: October 6, 2014