Supporting Families in Crisis:
Taken from Training Guides for
the Head Start Learning Community
is an intensive short-term service. As a carefully planned
and focused service, crisis intervention addresses the "here and
now" needs of the family through the resources of the family, Head
Start, and the broader community. Crisis intervention is
guided by six primary goals, which aim to stabilize the family.
In working with families in
crisis, Head Start staff must always be aware of how their own
feelings are affecting them and the intervention process. Sometimes
staff experience feelings similar to those of families in crisis.
They become overwhelmed, angry, confused, frustrated, hopeless,
anxious, helpless, etc. When such feelings go unheeded, they
take a draining toll on staff and the family partnership.
Thus, it is important for Head Start to provide staff with
opportunities to explore their reactions to a family crisis, their
level of comfort in handling the crisis, and any personal values or
feelings that may make professional boundaries difficult to
This module focuses on crisis intervention
and the role of Head Start in carrying out or supporting that process.
Crisis intervention is guided by six
goals, which influence decisions about Head Start's role with a family in crisis
and aim to stabilize and strengthen the family, Major goals are to:
The Crisis Intervention Role of Head Start Staff
The role of Head Start staff is generally one of
recognizing and assessing the crisis situation, listening and providing
reassurance, and helping the family to use specialized resources in the broader
community. Sometimes, however, the Head Start staff member may be the
crisis intervention team leader.
The crisis intervention role of staff varies from family
to family, depending upon many factors. Important considerations include:
When it is inadvisable or inappropriate for Head Start to
take the lead role in crisis intervention, there are still ways staff can
support a family in crisis. Example include:
Step of Crisis Intervention
Crisis intervention is a short-term, carefully planned,
and focused service that addresses the "here and now" needs of the family
through the resources of the family, Head Start, and the broader community.
Whether Head Start staff assume the lead crisis intervention role or act as a
support system to the family and the community resources involved, they should
observe eight basic steps:
Techniques for Defusing a
Active listening, providing information, modeling a sense
of humor and fun, showing enthusiasm, instilling hope, and questioning are some
techniques useful fro defusing a family crisis and helping a family to
With appropriate support and services, the tension and struggles created by a
family crisis can be channeled quickly into constructive courses of action.
The family in crisis learns t use new resources, apply new problem-solving
skills, and cope more effectively with stress. The result is often a very
strengthening experience that can carry the family through complex challenges in