Getting to know providers

Different providers are set up in different ways. It’s useful to know how they are organised.

The one thing they all have in common is that they must provide a safe environment for children. This includes having policies, procedures and the right staff in place to promote safety and well being.

It is absolutely your choice which type of service or provider you access.

Common fears when talking to providers

Some parents feel overwhelmed when approaching a provider, whom they see as an expert.

Others are afraid that asking too many questions will make them seem pushy, or even risk their children receiving services. They will be seem as a ‘difficult’ parent.

Others may think they won’t understand the sort of information we have been outlining –that it is too complicated.

These are common fears.

You need to remember that you and your children have rights – children with disability shouldn’t expect and accept second best.

And there are lots of resources (like this one) and people available to support you.

How to approach conversations with providers

One way to approach a provider is to see yourself as a customer or consumer, and as your child’s advocate.

You are an expert in understanding your child’s disability and how it impacts on them and what their particular needs are. The provider is an expert in their area of care or service provision.

You are looking for a provider who together with you will be part of an excellent team to give your child the right type of care.



How providers are set up

Some are funded by the government.  Others are in private practice and work as individual contractors or sole traders.

An individual contractor or sole trader is someone who is self-employed or runs their own business. They might practice on their own or with other professionals.

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Things to find out about the provider include:

  • Who they are funded by
  • Do they stand alone or are part of a larger structure
  • Who they are registered with, for example the NDIS
  • Whether they are governed by a Board of Management
  • Who is in leadership positions
  • Who is responsible for child safety
  • Who parents go to if they have a concern

This information may be on their website or in publications and other documents. If you can’t find it, ask for them directly.

Learning about the provider’s culture

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The provider’s culture (atmosphere, attitudes and values) is an important factor that promotes safety and responsiveness.

Providers with an open culture will demonstrate this in a number of ways. In particular they will be

  • welcoming,
  • open to your interest,
  • open about how they operate
  • welcome and encourage the involvement of parents in all aspects of the organisations functioning.
How to assess a provider’s culture:
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When you visit the provider, think about the atmosphere they communicate – how do they make you and your children feel? Here are some things to consider:

  • Are they welcoming and interested in what you and your children think?
  • Do they treat you and your child with dignity and respect?
  • Do they promote and demonstrate a culture of openness?
  • Do they encourage participation of children and parents?
  • Will other professionals or carers involved with your child be also welcomed and consulted where relevant?
  • Do they include training for their staff about promoting these attitudes?
  • How do they give feedback to parents (and relevant professionals) about their child’s activities and experiences and relationships with peers and carers? How often is it done and how – verbal, written – both?

The process for getting to know providers

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There are a number of steps you need to take to get to know a provider, and to develop trust and form an effective working partnership.

The process starts with the pre-decision stage and continues once your child is receiving a service.

  • Do some research about the service before your first meeting so that you will arrive prepared for the first meeting. For example you could read their website, or talk to others who know their service
  • The best outcome is when you take an active role – remember you are interviewing the service to make sure they can provide a service that meets your child’s needs.
  • If you don’t feel comfortable undertaking this task on your own, that’s fine. Take someone with you. This could be a family member, friend, carer, or a professional.  Just be clear with your support person what you want them to do.
  • For example, you might want your support person to ask questions that you find difficult, or you may want them to write down what the provider says so that you can focus on talking to the provider
  • Go to all meetings prepared.  This means having a clear idea about what you are seeking.  If you don’t know what that is, take time to gather information.
  • Prepare relevant information about your child. Be clear about your child’s strengths and challenges, their behaviours, development, needs, personality and how they communicate when they are happy or are scared.
  • Think about what you want the provider to know about your family, circumstances, and what they need to know to provide the best care for your child.
  • Ask any questions you need to – there are never too many questions or wrong questions!

Assessing the physical space

The physical space includes the atmosphere and the space. Do an environmental scan. Some things to look out for include:

  • Does the physical environment provide safety, accessibility and promote healthy development?
  • Are there appropriate specialist facilities such as rails, accessible toilets/changing facilities?
  • What is their line of sight, open-door policy, levels of supervision of staff, volunteers or service users? Do the staff use name tags?
  • What is the physical atmosphere?
  • Is it a children friendly environment; are there displays, pictures on the walls, indications of respecting cultures, traditions (for example, are there pictures displayed that reflect the people receiving the service, is there for example an Aboriginal flag displayed?)
Take your time

You are not going to learn everything at one meeting. It’s fine to go back and check something, and to visit as many times as you need do. Remember it is fine to:

  • Take whatever time you need to make your decision.
  • Does this provider or service feel right? Talk it over with trusted friends, family, professionals and your child. Trust your gut instinct.
  • It is always okay to change your mind. You can walk away at any point if it doesn’t feel right for your child or for yourself.

Once you have made your decision:

  • Work out how you will be kept up to date with your child’s progress and how ‘we can work together’ as a team.
  • Think about contributing to the culture of an organisation by volunteering and participating in activities and at the policy or program level