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Providing Technical Assistance to Families: A Guide for State Deaf-Blind Projects

Needs and Capacity Assessment

Making decisions about family TA activities requires an in-depth understanding of the needs of and resources for families in your state.

Assess Needs and Resources

The following are common ways to gather information about family needs and resources.

Survey. Ideally, every state project should conduct a survey of family needs at least once during the 5-year funding cycle. This Example Family Needs Assessment Survey can be adapted (e.g., shorten or change elements) to meet the needs of your project.

Child count. Review your state’s child count data to identify demographic characteristics (e.g., a large number of transition-age children or families from specific racial/ethnic groups) that may point to specific needs.

TA data. Review paperwork from your family TA such as completed intake and evaluation forms or evaluation data from family trainings and events for problems families encounter and supports they find helpful.

Partnerships. Make a list of  agencies and organizations that currently or potentially could help you provide support to families. Common ones include: 

  • Parent Training and Information Centers and Community Parent Resource Centers 
  • Developmental disabilities services, including state coordination services
  • National Family Association for Deaf-Blind (including Affiliates)
  • CHARGE Syndrome Foundation (including State Liaisons)
  • Vocational rehabilitation services
  • Helen Keller National Center Regional Representatives
  • Hands & Voices Guide By Your Side program

Evaluate Project Capacity

Assess how your project’s expertise and available resources influence your capacity to serve families. Things to consider include:

  • Staff knowledge and skills for working with families (Recommended Knowledge and Skills for State Deaf-Blind Project Family Engagement Coordinators)
  • Whether you are able to employ a family engagement coordinator
  • Amount of time (e.g., hours per month) you have available to devote to family activities
  • Number of families to whom you anticipate being able to provide targeted and intensive TA
  • How much money you have to allocate to family activities and support (e.g., scholarships, travel stipends, family events)
  • Partners and external resources (e.g., volunteers, additional funds, in-kind donations)

Periodic self-reflection on your skills and abilities is important. Do you feel comfortable working with families? Are there situations in which you feel unsure of your skills? The skills needed to interact with families can sometimes make or break a parent’s ability to trust you and receive your support and suggestions. An excellent resource is Strategies for Family Engagement: Attitudes and Practices.