Circle’s Whole Family Approach in Practice

Staying with families while they resolve or manage difficulties and develop new skills or maintain existing ones is central to the whole family approach. Building relationships takes time and understanding the nuances of each family is part of the whole family approach. We seek to build up trust and understanding with each family member. We aim to understand how the family functions as a whole, what beliefs underpin individual behaviour and the wider family system, what the processes within families look like and how well they serve to maintain the family’s overall resilience.

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Change can occur rapidly i.e. in relation to crisis management, however new skills need to be practiced and motivation sustained in particular when significant life events or transitions occur. This means staying with the family over the longer term (on average for a year) building on strengths and not creating a dependency. Taking small meaningful steps with the family to work towards their goals over the longer term is essential. Family members have fed back the importance of their development of organisational skills to maintain a sense of competence in relation to family life; in this example, the small step could be introducing a calendar helping families to remember appointments, which in turn leads to significant change.

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Circle Family Support Plans are one tool that Circle uses and are developed in conjunction with family members; these help to set, guide and review short, medium and long term goals. Through these observable change is identified and positive outcomes noticed by the family members and others in wider systems i.e. school, work, community. There is no one size fits all; each family composition and context is unique. Intervention can increase and decrease in terms of intensity on identifying need, taking into account feedback from the family and stakeholders and guided by Circle’s staff supervision. The ultimate aim is that family members can sustain meaningful change without the ongoing need for family support, developing sustainable coping strategies and knowing when and how to access additional support. A long term trusting relationship is the context for change.

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Circle’s Family Support Workers can work with family members on a one to one basis, as a couple or group in the home, school and community settings, to help family members reflect on beliefs, behaviours and interactions and to build skills and strengths. Regardless of which part of the ‘system’ the Family Support Worker is targeting support or how this occurs, the overarching aims tend to be the same to i.e. to building parents/carers confidence and capacity, improve children’s wellbeing and bolstering family resilience.