MH8 Establish, sustain and disengage from relationships with the families of children and young people


This standard covers establishing, sustaining and disengaging from working relationships with the families of children and young people as part of an overall programme of work.  The standard covers initial contact with families where ground rules are explained and expectations are clearly set out.  The standard also covers sustaining and developing the relationship and deals with how the worker eventually disengages from their relationship with families.

The relationship may be established and sustained as part of a care programme for a child or young person with mental health needs or may occur when a parent has mental health needs that impact on their relationships with their children.

This standard applies to those workers who have specific responsibility for working with the families of children and young people.

Users of this standard will need to ensure that practice reflects up to date information and policies.

Version No 1

Knowledge and Understanding

You will need to know and understand:

  1. The nature and structure of families and how these differ according to context and culture
  2. The significance of the relationship between families and children, and particularly between parents and children
  3. The family’s central role in the development and welfare of children and young people
  4. The wishes that families have for their children and young people and the extent to which these are realistic and challenging
  5. The different forms and range of effective communication (e.g. total communication); the effect of culture on communication (e.g. the use of sensory contact - touch, presence, contact, distance between individuals when communicating, the terms of respect and address used etc)
  6. How culture, gender and beliefs can affect attitudes and behaviour and how it may be perceived by others (e.g. it may be seen to be more acceptable for men to be more assertive than women); why it is important to recognise and challenge this in oneself
  7. Behaviours which demonstrate value for others and those which do not
  8. Working methods and styles which may be used in developing, sustaining and enabling individuals to move on from relationships; how to empower individuals to develop effective relationships in the future
  9. The impact of the broader social environment on families and children and young people (e.g. area of material deprivation, poor housing, poverty)
  10. Physical, social, psychological and emotional development of children and young people; and the ways in which such development can be affected
  11. The relationship between physical, social, psychological and emotional development and behaviour and associated patterns
  12. The effect of parenting and family relationships on the physical, social, psychological and emotional development of children and young people
  13. The need for children and young people to gradually develop their own views and thoughts and become independent
  14. The effects of families on children and young people particularly when family members have their own issues and needs (e.g. mental health, substance use)
  15. How to use legislation, guidelines of good practice, charters and service standards in work with children and young people and their families
  16. The role of the agency and its services and how they relate to other agencies and services in the sector
  17. The agency’s policy and procedures regarding confidentiality of information and the disclosure of information to third parties, and the specific circumstances under which disclosure may be made
  18. Your role and responsibilities and from whom assistance and advice should be sought if you are unsure
  19. How you have applied the principles of equality, diversity and anti-discriminatory practice to your work
  20. The options you considered in your work and the reasoning processes you used in relating to different families and individuals within those families

Performance Criteria

You must be able to do the following:

  1. gather and review relevant information to familiarise yourself with the family’s background, circumstances, and needs before making initial contact
  2. explain clearly to the families of children and young people:
    1. who you are
    2. why you have made contact
    3. the nature and extent of the your role
    4. the information that will need to be shared with other workers and agencies
  3. explore with families:
    1. what they expect from yourself and the agency
    2. their preferred names and how they wish to be addressed
    3. their and your own expectations and understanding of future contacts and agree with them when and how these should take place
    4. their wishes and concerns about their children and young people reflecting these back to confirm that you have understood them correctly
    5. whether there are any issues that they wish to remain confidential from their children and young people and from others
  4. interact with families and individuals throughout the process in a manner which:
    1. is appropriate to the family’s and individuals’ background, culture, circumstances and needs
    2. encourages an open exchange of views
    3. minimises any constraints to communication
    4. is free from discrimination and oppression
    5. enables individuals to make their own contribution
    6. demonstrates respect for the family and individuals within it
    7. shows that families are the most knowledgeable people about their own children and young people
    8. recognises their circumstances and experiences, but which is not judgmental
    9. provides a positive example and model of behaviour and communication
    10. emphasises the family’s responsibility for their own actions and behaviour
    11. encourages their motivation
  5. enable families to:
    1. recognise the benefits of children and young people drawing attention to the achievements of their own children
    2. express their feelings towards yourself and your employing agency
  6. challenge constructively attitudes and behaviour that are anti-social or discriminatory in a manner which takes account of personal safety
  7. offer constructive support and positive regard to families acknowledging the difficulties that can be faced with children and young people
  8. clearly and honestly explain your own perspectives, values and feelings in a manner appropriate to families when it is appropriate to families and the relationship
  9. give accurate and relevant information to the families of children and young people in ways that they are likely to understand
  10. encourage families to seek further information and advice on the issues and difficulties they face
  11. maintain contact with families at a frequency and using methods that are consistent with your role, agency and statutory requirements
  12. provide prompt and accurate explanations in instances where you fail to meet agreements
  13. acknowledge when society and the wider community has not fulfilled its responsibilities to the family or their children and young people
  14. challenge individuals and families when they make assumptions or are prejudiced against individuals or agencies
  15. seek appropriate advice and support when the needs and issues which families have are beyond your role and competence
  16. refer families to appropriate other workers and agencies when they have needs beyond your role
  17. keep accurate and complete records of:
    1. contacts, only disclosing information to those who have a right and need to know it once proof of identity and right to disclosure has been obtained
    2. information provided by families accurately consistent with agreements regarding confidentiality and in ways that distinguish facts from opinions
    3. the work with families, outcomes achieved and the situation at the point of disengagement
  18. explain clearly to families why there is a need for disengagement
  19. explore and acknowledge families’ feelings about disengaging from the relationship
  20. clearly and accurately summarise the outcomes of the work and compare them with the original reasons for making contact
  21. offer appropriate support to families to enable them to engage with other services and networks
  22. alert appropriate workers and agencies to issues that the family may experience due to disengagement
  23. manage your own feelings about disengagement in a constructive and appropriate manner

Additional Information

This National Occupational Standard was developed by Skills for Health.

This standard links with the following dimension within the NHS Knowledge and Skills Framework (October 2004):

Dimension: Core 1 Communication
MH8 Establish, sustain and disengage from relationships with the families of children and young people
Final version approved June 2010 © copyright Skills For Health
For competence management tools visit tools.skillsforhealth.org.uk