You will meet with staff from different agencies and working with them as an ally is extremely important. We know, as parents, how important it is to be a part of the “Team” working through the case. However, because of the many difficult situations that resource parents face, we sometimes begin to think of ourselves against the agency. This is very counter-productive to getting our purposes accomplished. Remember that the agency is made up of individuals who are doing the best that they can with the perspective and information that they have. The following points are important to remember in our work with agency personnel.
Learn to Listen
The first task in meeting with an agency staff member regarding an issue or conflict is to be sure that we know how to and are practicing the art of listening. The five different types of listening (ignoring what is said, pretending to hear, selectively listening to what you want to hear, listening attentively to what is said, and listening emphatically with real understanding) are used in different interpersonal situations. In working with the agency staff we want to strive to listen emphatically.
Listen to Understand
Many people are formulating their response to a situation as they listen, they are not focused on trying to truly understand what the person is saying. Because we are coming from a different perspective, parents must stretch our listening to truly understand what an agency person may be trying to communicate.
Validate the staff’s experience
Parents may find themselves in the position of dealing with the agency goofs. Because the parent often suffers the consequence of an agency mistake it is easy to come into the conversation with criticism. Understand and acknowledge the difficulty that the staff experienced in this situation. Show the staff that we empathize with their situation. If they already know they made a mistake and if we feel we might be venting our anger– I think: keep my mouth shut.
Create an atmosphere of safety and trust
Work to allow for disagreements without fear of retaliation. If there is a conflict with someone in the agency bring that person into the conversation so that they can be dealt with directly rather than behind their back. Keep working to be honest and correct in what we say. Talking behind someone’s back without having them in a conversation does not create an atmosphere of safety and trust.
Don’t keep score
Once an issue has been discussed and settled, don’t keep bring it up into the foreground.
Deal with issues and not personalities
Getting to talk with the worker may be the issue not the fact that this worker never returns my phone calls.
Monitor your involvement and plan ahead
Know what I want to do or get out of a meeting with the agency. What can they do to help? What are different options that they could use? Think ahead of the meeting how I will get this accomplished.
Do not be afraid of blow-outs
Strong disagreements between agency staff and parents can occur. If it does happen, acknowledge the conflict, think about the situation without the conflict, and agree with the agency staff on what I will do next time such a conflict occurs.