“Family Mentorship is one way to incorporate the life experience and expertise of families into professional training programs. Many LEND programs find that Family Mentorship is an excellent training model to promote effective and caring family-professional collaborations.”
*Promising Practices in Family Mentorship Guide Book, AUCD
One example of Family Mentorship in our LEND program is the opportunity to be involved in home visits. All LEND fellows are required to conduct 4 two- hour home visits to a family of a child with a special health care need or disability. These visits are coordinated through the Linking Hands Program and are scheduled to accommodate both the fellow and family involved. LEND fellows develop their own personal learning goals or objectives prior to their visit. After their visit, fellows write a Reflection Paper that summarizes their experience and lessons learned. We also have fellows identify and present two resources that relate in some way to family support, family centered care, or parent professional collaborations.
Linking Hands is a program that raises awareness of LEND trainees to the effect that caring for a child with special health care needs has on families. The program started in 1998 in honor of the memory of Dr. Marilynn Haynie, former director of the Children's Hospital Coordinated Care Service, an outstanding physician, and a mentor to residents.
The home visits are the core of the program where families welcome a fellow into their homes. The families serve as teachers, talking to the fellow about their own experiences, the qualities they find most helpful in medical or educational professionals, and the community resources that have made a difference for them. Fellows are able to see firsthand how families find a sense of normalcy amidst the demands families face raising a child with special health care needs. In addition to visiting a family at their home, fellows receive valuable information on communicating with families and resources that they can use throughout their careers.
Families participating in the Linking Hands Project have received an orientation to prepare them for these visits and are provided a stipend for their involvement. In this orientation, they learned the goals of the program and reviewed suggested activities for the visit.
Reactions from past LEND fellows:
“This experience will help me be more understanding of the challenges that these patients face at home, as well as the joys that these children bring to their families.”
“Their story was very inspiring and made a difference in my life and I hope to use what I learned from them to help other families who have children with special needs”
“Although his medical needs are great, they are a small fraction of who he is as a person, and this visit taught me to view all I serve in the future in this way.”
“She thanked me for expressing an interest in her son and for an opportunity to share her story - I, in turn, thanked her for enriching my life with her story and for allowing me to experience a child as special and as beautiful as her son.” “There is something very different about listening to the story in a living room instead of listening to the story in an exam room while trying to take copious notes. This totally different element was introduced, which made the dynamic all the more real, all the more personal, and all the more humanizing.”