You are 20 minutes into the intervention visit when the mother gets a call. Her preschooler’s teacher is calling because the child is ill and needs to be picked up. She asks you if she can just run up the street and pick up her child while you stay with the toddler. You have been collaborating with the family for 6 months and clearly the mother trusts you. She doesn’t want to end the visit early and says that she’ll only be gone 10 minutes…what do you do?
Being asked to “watch” a child while a parent runs a quick errand or takes a shower is a common occurrence for early interventionists. We work hard to develop relationships with families that are based on trust and open communication, but we have to work equally hard to maintain professional boundaries.
When a family asks you for a favor like this, there are several things to keep in mind:
What if something happens to the child on your watch? – This is probably the most important question and has an obvious answer. You would be responsible and liable.
What is your agency’s policy for being alone with a child? – For many agencies, staff are not permitted to be alone with children as a protection for everyone involved.
How does doing this favor for the parent match with the goals of the visit? – The purpose of early intervention is to support parents in interacting with their children in ways that enhance development. If the parent is not there, even for 10 minutes, then the goal of the visit is not being met.
What is the real issue here? – Consider whether the favor being asked of you is a one-time request or is a symptom of a bigger issue, such as the need for respite. If there is a bigger issue, or if you are asked for favors like this often, talk to the parent and service coordinator about options and ideas to address the issue.
If you were this interventionist, what would you do?
Do you agree to watch the child or do you decline? What do you say to the mother?
What options can you think of for handling this situation?
Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below!