Intervention Visits, Practical Strategies, What Would You Do?

Do You Work With My Neighbor’s Child?…What Do You Do?

You’re on an intervention visit and the mother asks you if you also work with her neighbor’s child. She says she’s noticed your car in their driveway and goes on to tell you what she knows about that family. Or maybe you’re talking with a friend of yours who mentions a family who is in your program. What do you do? How do you handle these situations??

Do you spill the beans because this mother obviously already knows that you work with her neighbor?

Do you go ahead and tell your friend because you know you can trust her?

Or do you politely decline to answer? How do you say that you can’t talk about other families? What words do you use to protect confidentiality and explain this boundary when this question arises?

Protecting each family’s confidentiality is very important, not only because it’s a requirement under Part C of IDEA, FERPA and many agencies’ policies. A child’s intervention is a very private matter for families and we need to be sure that our words, actions and interactions respect that.

Share how you’ve handled this situation and the reaction that inevitably comes when you decline to share the information. What would you do?

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6 Comments to “Do You Work With My Neighbor’s Child?…What Do You Do?”

  1. This is a common dilemma in small communities, especially. However, when working with families who have figured out that you also work with someone they know, most really appreciate it when you say say, “We don’t discuss the folks we work with”, because it means we won’t discuss them either.

    Of course, when the jig is up, you can always run some evasive line, such as, “What a doll baby”, before changing the subject. That approach is avoidant without being insulting.

    • I agree, Mary Ellen, that saying something simple about not discussing families has a double benefit – it makes the boundary clear and lets the family who is asking know that their privacy will be respected too.

  2. Great question.
    Loved Mary Elen’s evasive technique of “what a doll baby!” before changing the subject. I typically run my very sophisticated “deer in the headlights” look, trying to diplomatically deal with the question!

    • So funny, Colleen! I’m very familiar with the “deer in the headlights” look! Sometimes I think it’s inevitable as we try to quickly think about how to handle a situation like this. It really is a diplomatic situation that needs to be handled respectfully, especially in smaller towns where everyone often knows everyone else.

  3. I usually just say something to the effect “I’m so sorry but since confidentiality is very important to us, I can’t say if I do or not” then I usually notice something that the child is doing and use that to sort of “change the topic” to start into the visit. I’ve never really found that it’s TOO uncomfortable or awkard and the family almost always just moves on….

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