Understanding the type of organisation/provider

When choosing a provider, other parents have found it helpful to find out information about how the providers are organised and set up. Providers are organised differently. Some are funded through the government. Some providers are in private practice and work as individual contractors. An individual contractor/provider/sole trader is someone who is self-employed or runs their own business – on their own or with other similar professionals or with other professionals.

It is absolutely your choice which type of service or provider you access. What they all have in common is the responsibility to ensure that their organisation (or themselves as a sole operator) provides a culture that values and empowers children and has the appropriate policies, procedures, and types of staff in place to promote children’s safety and well-being.

You may think that you won’t understand this sort of information – it will be too complicated. You may feel overwhelmed when approaching a provider, seeing them as the experts. You may have a fear that if you ask too much you will seem pushy and even risk receiving services.

These are common fears.

You need to remember that you and your children have rights – children with disability shouldn’t expect and accept second best. One way of approaching this situation is to see yourself as a customer/consumer and your child’s advocate when you approach someone to provide a potential service that is going to be offering what your child needs to reach their best potential. Providers are experts in their area as you are the expert in relation to being your child’s parent and understanding their disability and how it impacts on them and what their particular needs for care are. That is why together you will provide an excellent team to inform the type of care that is right for your child.

What do you look for to find out more about this organisation/provider?

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It is helpful to learn about the organisation. Who are they funded by? Do they stand alone or part of a larger structure?

  • Who are they registered with e.g. are they registered with NDIS?
  • Are they governed by a Board of Management? Who is in leadership positions?
  • Who is responsible for child safety in the organisation and who do parents’ go to if they have a concern? This type of information may be provided on their website or in publications/pamphlets/documents. If you can’t find it, ask them directly.

Learning about the provider’s culture

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The provider’s culture the (atmosphere, attitudes and values) is an important factor that promotes safety and responsiveness.Providers with an open culture will demonstrate this in a number of ways. In particular they will be welcoming, open to your interest, open about how they operate and welcome the involvement of parents across all aspects of the organisations functioning.

What you can do about this:

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When you visit/have contact with the provider it is important to think about the atmosphere they communicate – how do they make you and your children feel? Are they welcoming, interested in what you and your children think? Do they treat you and your child with dignity and respect? Do they promote and demonstrate a culture of openness? Do they encourage participation of children and parents? Will other professionals, carers involved with your child be also welcomed and consulted where relevant? Do they include training to their staff about these areas – promoting these attitudes? What is their practice in relation to parents (& relevant professionals) receiving feedback about their child’s activities and experiences, relationships with peers and carers – how often and how is it done i.e. verbal, written – both?

General tips about meeting with providers:

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  • Remember becoming familiar with a provider is a process and a number of steps need to be taken to grow and develop trust and form an effective working partnership.  It starts with the pre-decision stage and continues once your child is receiving a service.
  • Go to the first meeting prepared. Do some research about the service prior to your first meeting e.g. read their website, talk to others who know their service
  • The best outcome is when you take an active role – you are interviewing the service – what they can offer, so that you feel reassured.
  • If you don’t feel comfortable undertaking this task on your own, that’s fine. Take an advocate or support person with you. Think about whom that needs to be and why they are there – it may be a family member, friend, carer, or a professional. Make sure they are prepared – know what you will want from them.
  • Go to all meetings prepared. Document clearly what you are seeking, and if you don’t know what that is, take time to gather information and make your decision. Prepare relevant information about your child. Be clear about your child’s strengths and challenges, their behaviours, development, needs, personality, how they communicate when they are happy or are scared. Think about what you want them to know about your family, circumstances, and what they need to know.

  • Ask any questions you need to – there are never too many questions or wrong questions!
  • What do you see when you visit? What is the physical  atmosphere? Do an environmental scan – is the physical environment one that will provide safety, accessibility and promote healthy development? Are there appropriate specialist facilities such as rails, accessible toilets/changing facilities?
  • What is their line of sight, open-door policy, levels of supervision of staff/volunteers/service users? Do the staff use name tags?
  • What is the physical atmosphere – is it a children friendly environment; are there displays, pictures on the walls, indications of respecting cultures, traditions (for example, are there pictures displayed that reflect the people receiving the service, is there for example an Aboriginal flag displayed?)
  • You are not going to learn everything at one meeting. It’s fine to go back and check something, to visit as many times as you need do.
  • Take whatever time you need to make your decision. Does it feel right? Talk it over with trusted friends, family, professionals & your child. Trust your gut instinct.
  • It is always okay to change your mind and/or walk away if it doesn’t feel right for your child or for yourself.
  • Once you have made your decision:
  • Work out how you will be kept up to date with your child’s progress, how ‘we can work together.’
  • Think about contributing to the culture of an organisation by volunteering, participating in activities and at the policy, program level