Often, when people with disabilities consider seeking employment, their families strongly influence the decision. Especially with transition-aged youth, family influence can sway whether a consumer decides to try working. There is still a persistent belief that work income will cancel out any benefits the person with disability receives.
Since family support can be key, it is essential that vocational rehabilitation professionals cultivate a good relationship with them. Families bring some expertise about the person to the table that can help VR counselors learn about the consumer. Under ideal circumstances a strong team can be formed between families, counselors, and the potential worker with disabilities.
Sometimes forming a team can be extremely difficult. Maybe families have had previous bad experiences. They may feel like counselors are coming on strong and want to take the reins. Other times, counselors might go into a family situation without understanding dynamics or context. Being knowledgeable about and respectful of family culture can improve the chances that you can form that ‘dream team.’
Many resources are available for counselors to learn about and understand cultures different to their own. The document “Partnering with Hard to Connect Families” provides a carefully considered list of links to websites and documents that can give professionals an advantage when partnering with parents.
Information is provided about Hispanic, African American, and Native American/Alaska Native cultures for counselors not familiar with these communities. In addition, several of the resources offer communication and engagement strategies from members of the communities themselves. Cross-cultural and culturally appropriate approaches are also part of this resource.