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Welcome to the Family Program e-learning lesson on conducting a family needs assessment. Successfully conducting a family needs assessment requires establishing a good rapport with the family. The best method for doing that is simply being open and honest with the family throughout the process. Right away, share the purpose of the assessment with the family member. Also, be clear about who exactly will have access to the information shared during the assessment. You should be able to ensure a high level of confidentiality, but you should also explain the obligation you are under to respond to potential safety issues. The overarching goal is to support families through the deployment process and to assist them in getting their needs met. The family needs assessment can identify the issues affecting the quality of family life and present opportunities to make appropriate referrals for assistance. At the end of this lesson you will be able to define a needs assessment and describe when and why to conduct one, identify the steps in planning and conducting a needs assessment, and explain the elements of successful goal setting and best practices for writing an action plan.

Family members must make many sacrifices during a deployment.

There are many losses that occur when a family member deploys. Chief among them is the loss of time together. Holidays, anniversaries, and birthdays will be missed, and children, especially those between birth and three years of age, will change dramatically during deployment. If a spouse is forced to leave a full-time job to deploy, families might experience a significant loss of income that severely impacts the quality of life for the family. A lost sense of security and safety can increase anxieties and worries during deployment. Will the service member be safe? Will something bad happen? As a dual-parent family status changes into a single-parent family status, greater expectations and responsibilities are laid upon the parent at home. For a newly married young mother with an infant, the change can be overwhelming. Something seemingly minor, like who will get the oil changed in the car, can be too much to handle. When the family is already a single-parent family, children will have to make even bigger adaptations as they transition to a new care provider. This may involve moving, changing friends, or going to a new school. Regardless of the specific situation, all families must make big sacrifices during a deployment.

Establish trust and understanding from the very beginning of the family needs assessment.

Approaching the needs assessment process with an understanding of the challenges families are going through will allow Family Program staff members to assume a stance of compassion, support, and readiness to empower the family. Families will be more open to receiving supports if Family Program staff members are able to communicate an awareness of the family’s level of self-sacrifice. However, not all families will be open to the process initially. You may be a stranger and they may not want to share personal information with you. They may have difficulty trusting you, and feel that their family issues are private. It will be important to prepare for this, and to accept the families where they are at that particular time. You can share information about some of the services you provide and welcome them to attend the Family Readiness Group. There may be a time in the future when they want to reach out for support. A positive initial experience will make them more likely to reach out. Typically, families who have experienced interventions by child protecting service agencies or juvenile justice programs have less trust in support programs. If they did not have a helpful experience in the past, why would they expect a helpful experience with you? They may be concerned that your role is to find faults and get them into trouble. It will be important to be clear about your role to avoid any confusion.