Hello Foster Caregivers!
Todays blog post is a list of specific strategies to produce better outcomes during meetings with Resource Teams, as well as other professionals and authorities that we encounter in our daily lives. The only way to change another person’s behaviour is to change our own, therefore how we conduct ourselves will maximize our ability to collaborate, find common ground, and produce real solutions. This can be a highly emotional experience, and if we are able to try to control our own emotions and reactions, we are more likely to understand the many different sides of a situation.
1. Prepare for meetings by gathering information, and be specific about your issues/questions. Write them down and bring them to the meeting.
2. Establish your priorities.
3. Have a Support Worker with you or a trusted friend to take notes.
4. Acknowledge out-loud that there is a conflict and describe it. This establishes a starting point to begin a discussion.
5. Re-read the Foster Parent Handbook 5th ed. to review and clarify roles: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/family-and-social-supports/foster-parenting/foster_family_handbook.pdf.
6. Focus on one issue at a time.
7. Ask who will be at the meeting so there are no surprises. Request specific people to be at the meeting; they may not be available, but it is your right to ask.
8. Make sure you take care of your well-being, e.g.: enough sleep, not hungry etc.
9. Find childcare if possible, or plan a time when the children are at school.
10. Use your active listening skills.
11. Think about your intentions. Ask yourself: what do I want? Why am I needing this?
12. Be self-aware of negative feelings, e.g.: am I feeling personally insulted? Do I want revenge? Are my requests reasonable? Are theirs?
13. Be aware of your bodily sensations and reactions; it is ok to take a minute to take some deep breaths to calm yourself during intense situations.
14. Enter the meeting with a collaborative attitude; problem-solving takes critical thinking and creativity to find out-of-the-box solutions. Here is a link to the critical thinking process: https://www.essentiallifeskills.net/thinkcritically.html.
15. Use “I “ statements to express how you are feeling about what is being said, rather than “you” statements which can come across as accusatory. This could make the other person feel defensive which will not be helpful moving forward with the meeting. Here is a YouTube video about “I” statements if you would like this clarified https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ty2KvXJyJpg.
16. Ask for clarification if you do not understand something, and ask again until it is clear. Sometimes we interpret what another is saying incorrectly and vice-versa. Clarifying questions may include: “what I hear you saying is ______, is this correct”?
17. Try to speak in plain language, and ask them to do the same so there is less miscommunication. As awesome Canadians, we want to be polite, but at times just directly saying what we need to say, makes some conflicts/conversations more efficient and therefore more effective. People’s best intentions are not to hurt another person, but if beating-around-the-bush inhibits ours or their ability to understand a problem, then time is being wasted. Having said this, be prepared as best you can to hear something that you don’t want to hear. Ask for a minute to let the words sink in, and for you to think about it, so you are better prepared to formulate your next questions. Say what you mean and mean what you say, as kindly as possible.
18. Find common ground. Are there areas where you agree? Do we all want what is best for the child? (of course we do), is there flexibility or compromise in the situation? What are our mutual goals?
19. Be motivated to solve a conflict, not win a conflict.
20. Be aware of how the other person or people are feeling. Is this difficult for them too?
21. Accept responsibility and avoid blame as much as possible.
22. Close the conversation with a preliminary plan of action if applicable. One small step forward is a good start.
23. Reflect on the meeting to formulate your questions for the next meeting.
(Strategies derived from the Collaborative Conflict Resolution program at the Justice Institute of British Columbia, 2019)
Heather Lessard - Foster Parent Coordinator OFPA