Getting Family Support

Why getting support for parents, and children, is so hard.


Getting family support used to be reasonably easy. Not so many years ago, you would simply let your doctor or school know that you were struggling, and the help would be there – in not too long!

This picture is sadly a very long way from the reality of getting family support today.

Let’s look at the issues families face, when getting family support.

Thresholds for getting family support

Woman at crisis point

We all know that it ‘should’ be the case that every struggling child, parent or family can get family support. However the reality is the the sheer number of families struggling with wellbeing, behaviour, school issues, relationships and a whole host of other problems, means that without incredible levels of funding – services simply can’t reach them all.

Using a standard waiting list means that families in desperate need may not get the support. And using a needs based waiting list means that families in crisis go to the top, and non-crisis cases have to wait. 

Out of the two – a needs based list is less risk in the short term, as it means families who are in genuine crisis are most likely to get the places available.

Unfortunately – there are two significant faults with this system. 

  1. The numbers of families in crisis mean that non-crises cases won’t get any support
  2. We know that without intervention ‘before’ crisis point, the situation becomes worse, often leading to a crisis which could have been avoided.

And when you can’t reach all your cases – you increase the threshold for acceptance into the system, leaving more and more families in need. Ultimately – this means our services are in catch22. They can’t offer early intervention because of the numbers of crisis cases – and the number of crisis cases can’t be lowered because they can’t offer early intervention. 

Let’s also consider that the formal threshold ‘crisis point’ is very different to what feels like crisis for a family!

Everyday I work with parents and children who have been extremely unhappy.  They have lived the same arguments day after day, and have lost hope that it can be better. Living in crisis. Yet, they don’t meet the thresholds for support – the situation isn’t ‘severe enough’ to gain the essential support they need.


Woman at crisis point
Waiting times for getting family support


If your situation is SO bad that you actually do meet thresholds – you then have the extensive waiting list to contend with.

Depending on the service, and the areas you live, you are likely to be waiting many weeks, months, or sometimes ever over a year just to get an appointment.

And guess what’s happening whilst you are waiting? 

Yes, your situation is worsening. The longer we wait to put support in place, the more deeply engrained thought patterns and behaviours are for the whole family. 

This means that you have to work harder, for longer and face more barriers to getting through the difficult family situation you are in.

Not only that, but additional issues may have presented themselves due to the wait for support, and these issues mean new referrals, to be looked at against new thresholds – to be put on new waiting lists.

Before you know it, you’re now looking at multiple service providers.


Appointment times when getting family support


So finally – you’ve met thresholds, waited months for an appointment and you’re top of the list!

Hooray! Now surely things will get easier!

However a huge percentage of parents in current society work full time! In fact, self-employment and entrepreneurial-ship is at an all time high!

And despite the whole of society understanding that accessible services are vital to helping families engage – how many offer any out of business hours appointments?

Having waited months, you now have no choice but to leave work (and the possibility of losing clients) take your child out of school, and spend a morning or an afternoon getting them to your much coveted appointment slot.

Of course you don’t do this once! You do it repeatedly, for as long as you or your child needs the support (or until you reach your funding cap).

Have you ever run a business and tried to take time off regularly? It’s not easy!


Getting your child to engage in family support


Upset Child

And lastly – after you have managed the surmountable issues, battled for support, got your appointment, given up time and money to get there – you have the final hurdle!

Will your child engage?

They’ve managed for weeks or months without getting the help they need. They may feel let down, wary of professionals or uneasy about new places.

It is likely that you’ve walked into a starchy office type environment which does nothing to put your child at ease, and in fact the whole episode has further embedded the issues they face.

For some children this is too much, and they quite simply don’t engage in the supportive process now available. 

They may do one of 3 things:

1 – Refuse to engage at all. Not speak, not make eye contact or sometimes refuse point blank to even attend

2 – Partially engage in the situation, but not the service. Answer questions, but in a guarded way which does not allow the professional to gather the information they need to help them

3 – Pay lip-service. Appear to engage, but manipulate the situation and apply a belief that ‘it won’t help them anyway’

Sadly, with extensive waiting lists the professionals do not have the capacity to spend weeks, or months building up a relationship which allows the child to gain trust. The very thing necessary to make the support work!

I have myself worked with service which have a 3 session limit! How you can help a family with issues which took years to develop in 3 sessions in beyond me!

So what happens to families when children can’t, or won’t engage?

Well – there are two outcomes.

1 – They are referred to an alternative service, at the bottom of another waiting list.

 – Or – 

2 – They are simply removed

Both options simply further impact the issues, the belief that they cannot be helped, and the frustration and sadness for the family.

So how can getting family support be easier?


There are some key things which really help make support accessible for families who need it. 

 – Availability

When parents use a service (usually private) which can reach them at the point they realise they need help – the support is more effective. Family members are able to deal with issues before they embed so deeply that years of therapy is the only viable outcome.

  • Location

Why should a child, parent or even whole family need to travel to a stuffy office to talk to someone who can help them?

In the day and age of technology this just isn’t necessary anymore!

Children are tech-wise, and are not uncomfortable talking over the internet. And with the vast array of online platforms, whole family meetings and programmes can be run without ever making a child leave the safety and comfort of their own home.

  • Appointment times

When is a family most likely to be able to engage in support? Particularly, support together! When appointments are available to fit around the family schedule, everyone feels less stressed about the whole process. 

I cannot fathom why this isn’t available widespread! Surely a large percentage of professionals have children they might like to occasionally pick up from school in exchange for an evening of work later in the week? 

When Empowered Parents was born – it quickly became apparent that one of the things which attracted parents to the service, was the way it fits around life.

Online appointments which can be run whilst the family life carries on around them. 

Times which don’t force a parent to take time off work, or out of business

A system which allows children to feel at ease with their coach

Support for the whole family, without causing more stress

Simple strategies to make it possible for busy professional families to actually DEAL with issues, and move through difficult situations.

In an ideal world we would not have so many families in need.

Funding would be ample and ensure that every family could get support

But – we do not live in an ideal world. So it is even more important that services find an ideal way to meet the needs of the families they work with.

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