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 (of ten) PRINCIPLES: Parents are not treated as passive recipients in the care of their children. They can work at the grassroots alongside practitioners to create a local TAC System that counters institutional attitudes and that reaches all the families that want it.
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 equal partners with practitioners and taking a lead role when they feel ready.
This is not common practice in my experience and parents can be subjected to:
- being treated as lesser beings
- exclusion form important meetings about the child
- being thought incompetent to bring up their child
- incomprehensible professional jargon
- professional snobbery and superiority; etc.
Institutional attitudes are common in traditional services, one symptom of which is the term ‘early childhood intervention’. This is a very ‘male’ and medical term that sets the scene for things to be done to families instead of with families.
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.
In our efforts to create a local TAC System* (see note below) we have to counter institutional attitudes that can be strongest in more highly paid people and usually stronger in medical services than in nurseries and schools. I believe parents have a very important role in countering these unhelpful institutional attitudes.
Earlier this year, being aware that the first book on Team Around the Child was published twenty years ago and feeling frustrated at slow progress, I wrote a series of three essays entitled, 'What is the best way to promote early child and family support in a city, region or country?'
The third part was entitled: Part 3: I suggest a combined bottom-up and top-down approach with local forums or ‘TAC Councils’ at the grassroots. Here are extracts:
‘In the bottom-up and top-down approach I am advocating in this essay, the power to allocate resources is held at the top of each agency’s management hierarchy while the ‘stories’ about children and families, about their strengths, about their needs, about the lives they live and about how they can best be supported, is held at the grassroots by parents and practitioners. When parents (and other family members) and their practitioners get together they can take power with each other to influence how senior people manage and resource effective integrated early child and family support in their city, region or country. A necessary offshoot of this will be grassroots stories in press and media to influence public awareness and opinion.’
‘There are many ways to start and develop this bottom-up and top-down approach. It could start with a few parents talking with some of their trusted practitioners about a starting a shared initiative. Where it goes from there would depend on their first discussions. The approach could start with one or two senior managers wanting to enhance local early child and family support and deciding to facilitate a grassroots parent-practitioner forum or TAC Council. An outside agency coming in to a city, region or country as consultants could design a simultaneous two-pronged approach by talking to senior people (about need, resources, etc.) at the same time as talking to people at the grassroots (about parents and practitioners getting together).’
‘As I mentioned in the second part of the essay, the grassroots effort could involve representative parents of children have grown beyond early support and might now have the energy and time to participate.’
The creation of a TAC Council when developing or improving early child and family support will keep the focus firmly on the needs of children and families and will ensure that attitudes, plans and necessary resources are locally relevant and culturally appropriate. This can be the best starting point in regions and countries with high, medium or low economies.
*Note: A local TAC System is a seamless multiagency pathway that carries the child and family through the phases: meeting a new child and family; learning about strengths and needs of child and family; agreeing a unified and holistic support plan; providing the agreed support for the agreed period of time; reviewing progress and refreshing the action plan.
The TAC System is described in: An Integrated Pathway For Assessment And Support and in Chapter 7 of TAC for the 21st Century
First TAC Principle here
Second TAC Principle here
Third TAC Principle here
Fourth TAC Principle is here
Fifth TAC Principle here
Sixth TAC Principle here
Seventh TAC Principle here
Eighth TAC Principle here
Ninth TAC Principle here
Tenth TAC Principle here