Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal

, Volume 36, Issue 3, pp 285–294 | Cite as

Child and Family-Centered Practices in Early Childhood Education and Care Services: An Empirical Study with Families and Practitioners in Portugal

  • Paulo C. DiasEmail author
  • Irene Cadime


Early childhood intervention in Portugal evolved continuously in the past two decades. However, information regarding families’ and practitioners’ perceptions of the intervention practices is scarce. This work aims to explore families’ and practitioners’ perspectives about child/family centered practices and related variables. A sociodemographic questionnaire and the Portuguese adaptation of the Family Focused Intervention Scale was administered to 60 early childhood intervention practitioners and 78 caregivers. Data gathered from practitioners indicated that the most frequent practices were centered on providing information and providing instructional activities to the family. Overall, the practices were more centered on the children than centered on families, although some differences were observed as a function of the practitioners’ training or professional experience. Data gathered from families reinforced that children’s centered practices were the most prevalent, given that families indicated that intervention consisted mainly on providing information about children’s predicable development, as well as about the functioning of the services. Resource assistance seems to differ according to the severity of the handicap. These findings allow us to discuss how global early childhood intervention policies are being translated into local services and practices in the Portuguese context.


Early childhood intervention Families Practitioners Practices Perspectives 



This work was supported by National Funds, provided through FCT (Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia) to the strategic projects PEst-OE/FIL/UI0683/2014 and POCI-01-0145-FEDER-007562.


  1. Allen, R. I., & Petr, C. G. (1996). Towards developing standards and measurements for family-centered practice support programs. In G. H. Singer, L. E. Powers & A. L. Olson (Eds.), Redefining family support: Innovations in public-private partnerships (pp. 57–85). Baltimore: P. H. Brooks.Google Scholar
  2. Almeida, I. S. (2004). Intervenção precoce: Focada na criança ou centrada na família e na comunidade? Análise Psicológica, 22, 65–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bruder, M. B., & Dunst, C. J. (2015). Parental judgments of early childhood intervention personnel practices: Applying a consumer science perspective. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 34, 200–210. Scholar
  4. Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  5. Cohen, J. (1992). A power primer. Psychological Bulletin, 112(1), 155–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Coogle, C. G., & Hanline, M. F. (2016). An exploratory study of family-centred help-giving practices in early intervention: Families of young children with autism spectrum disorder. Child and Family Social Work, 21, 249–260. Scholar
  7. Cook, B. G., & Schirmer, B. R. (2003). What is special about special education? Overview and analysis. Journal of Special Education, 37, 200–205. Scholar
  8. Crais, E. R., Roy, V. P., & Free, K. (2006). Parents’ and professionals’ perceptions of the implementation of family-centered practices in child assessments. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 15, 365–377. Scholar
  9. Duchnowski, A. J., Kutash, K., Sheffield, S., & Vaugh, B. (2006). Increasing the use of evidence-based strategies by special education teachers: A collaborative approach. Teaching & Teacher Education: An International Journal of Research and Studies, 22, 838–847. Scholar
  10. Dunst, C. J., Johanson, C., Trivette, C., & Hamby, D. (1991). Family-oriented early intervention policies and practices: Family-centered or not? Exceptional Children, 58, 115–126. Scholar
  11. Dunst, C. J., Trivette, C. M., Masiello, T., Raper, N., & Robyak, A. (2006). Framework for developing evidence-based early literacy learning practices. Center for Early Literacy Learning, 1(1), 1–12.Google Scholar
  12. Epley, P. H., Summers, J. A., & Turnbull, A. P. (2011). Family outcomes of early intervention: Families’ perceptions of need, services, and outcomes. Journal of Early Intervention, 33, 201–219. Scholar
  13. Fleming, J. L., Sawyer, L. B., &. Campbell, P. H. (2011). Early intervention providers’ perspectives about implementing participation-based practices. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 30, 233–244. Scholar
  14. Fordham, L., Gibson, F., & Bowes, J. (2011). Information and professional support: Key factors in the provision of family-centred early childhood intervention services. Child: Care, Health and Development, 38, 647–653. Scholar
  15. Gavida-Payne, S., Meddis, K., & Mahar, N. (2015). Correlates of child and family outcomes in an Australian community-based early childhood intervention program. Journal of Intellectual & Developmental Disability, 40, 57–67. Scholar
  16. Gennetian, L., Darling, M., & Aber, J. L. (2016). Behavioral economics and developmental science: A new framework to support early childhood interventions. Journal of Applied Research on Children: Informing Policy for Children at Risk, 7(2), 2.Google Scholar
  17. Guralnick, M. J. (1997). Effectiveness of early intervention for vulnerable children: A developmental perspective. American Journal on Mental Retardation, 102, 319–345.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hajizadeh, N., Stevens, E. R., Applegate, M., Huang, K. Y., Kamboukos, D., Braithwaite, R. S., & Brotman, L. M. (2017). Potential return on investment of a family-centered early childhood intervention: A cost-effectiveness analysis. BMC Public Health, 17, 796. Scholar
  19. Jiménez, M. E., Barg, F. K., Guevara, J. P., Gerdes, M., & Fiks, A. G. (2012). Barriers to evaluation for early intervention services: Parent and early intervention employee perspectives. Academic Pediatrics, 12, 551–557. Scholar
  20. King, S., Teplicky, R., King, G., & Rosenbaum, P. (2004). Family-centered service for children with cerebral palsy and their families: A review of the literature. Seminars in Pediatric Neurology, 11, 78–86. Scholar
  21. Lee, Y. H. (2015). The meaning of early intervention: A parent’s experience and reflection on interactions with professionals using a phenomenological ethnographic approach. International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-being, 10, 25891. Scholar
  22. Machado, M. A., Santos, P. A., & Espe-Sherwindt, M. (2017). Envolvimento participativo de famílias no processo de apoio na intervenção precoce na infância. Saber & Educar, 23, 122–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Mahoney, G., O’Sullivan, P., & Dennenbaum, J. (1990). A national study of mother’s perceptions of family-focused early intervention. Journal of Early Intervention, 14, 133–146. Scholar
  24. Pereira, A. P., & Serrano, A. M. (2014). Early intervention in Portugal: Study of professionals’ perceptions. Journal of Family Social Work, 17, 263–282. Scholar
  25. Pimentel, J. S. (2003). A escala de intervenção focada na família: Estudo da sua validação. Psicologia, 17, 179–194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Pimentel, J. S. (2005). Intervenção focada na família: desejo ou realidade. Percepções de pais e profissionais sobre as práticas de apoio precoce a crianças com necessidades educativas especiais e suas famílias [Family-focused intervention: desire or reality. Perceptions of parents and professionals about early care practices for children with special educational needs and their families]. Lisboa: Secretariado Nacional para a Reabilitação e Integração das Pessoas com Deficiência.Google Scholar
  27. Shonkoff, J. P., & Meisels, S. J. (Eds.). (2000). Handbook of early intervention. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Simeonsson, R. J., & Bailey, D. B. (1990). Family dimensions in early intervention. In S. J. Meisels & J. P. Shonkoff (Eds.), Handbook of early intervention (pp. 428–444). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Tomasello, N. M., Manning, A. R., & Dulmus, C. N. (2010). Family-centered early intervention for infants and toddlers with disabilities. Journal of Family Social Work, 13, 163–172. Scholar
  30. Turnbull, A. P., Turbiville, V., & Turnbull, H. R. (2000). Evolution of family-professional partnerships: Collective empowerment as the model for the early twenty-first century. In J. P. Shonkoff & S. J. Meisels (Eds.), Handbook of early intervention (pp. 630–650). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Wright, A., Hiebert-Murphy, D., & Trute, B. (2010). Professionals’ perspectives on organizational factors that support or hinder the successful implementation of family-centered practice. Journal of Family Social Work, 13, 114–130. Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Philosophy and Social SciencesCatholic University of PortugalBragaPortugal
  2. 2.Research Centre on Child StudiesUniversity of MinhoBragaPortugal

Personalised recommendations