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  • Can Service Coordinators Use Coaching?(current)

Answering this question with a “Sure you can!” makes the answer sound simple, but if you’re a service coordinator you may be finding that using coaching "Sure you can!"strategies isn’t as easy as you thought. In Virginia, we’ve heard from some service coordinators that coaching is not a good fit with what they do. We’ve heard that coaching is more of a strategy for educators and therapists, that it can’t be used because it’s the service coordinator’s job to “do” rather than “teach.” Having both practiced as a service coordinator and an educator, I truly believe that the best service coordinators are a little bit of both. A teaching degree is not required…I mean that service coordinators are most effective when they know community resources AND know how to help families learn to advocate for and access resources themselves.

Service Coordinators as Coaches

Sure, a service coordinator could “do” everything for a family, but what’s the long-term outcome of that? Families love you, you feel good about yourself, but what impact does that have? Once the family leaves early intervention, who will they turn to when they need assistance? Rather than “doing” for them, I would suggest that coaching them to “do” for themselves will have a much longer-lasting effect with more positive outcomes. Just like the how therapist teaches the parent strategies to support the child’s development, the service coordinator can teach resourcefulness that can carry on for years to come.

Supporting Cailin’s Family

Think about the following scenario:

Cailin’s family is newly referred to EI by the local homeless shelter. When Leslie first meets Cailin’s father, Mike, she learns that the family only has four days left before they must move out. When she notices Cailin’s droopy diaper, Mike tells Leslie he only has a day’s worth of diapers left. He’s extremely stressed but doing the best he can since he lost his job two months ago. He’s concerned about Cailin’s development but really needs to find housing. Leslie’s first impulse is to jump into crisis management mode and go by diapers for him. She also thinks that she needs to call other shelters and apartments in the area to find the family a place to live.

Leslie has two options: she can “do” for Cailin’s family and jump in to solve their problems, or she can talk with Mike and try using some coaching strategies to find out what he knows, what he’s already tried, and what he wants to do next.

Resource-based Coaching Practices

According to Rush & Shelden (2011), resource-based intervention practices align well with coaching because they focus on strengthening the family’s capacity to:

1. Identify their own priorities and the resources available to address them;

2. Access those resources; and

3. Evaluate the effectiveness of those resources (see pgs. 136-137).

To help Mike move through these three steps, Leslie can use open-ended questions to explore how he might go about meeting his family’s needs:

Getting Diapers for Cailin – Leslie might ask Mike some reflective questions such as “How might you go about getting more diapers?” or “What options do you have for getting enough diapers to get you through until payday?” These are important questions to ask before Leslie tells Mike that she knows about a church pantry that gives away baby supplies every Wednesday afternoon. She’s not keeping this resource from him; she is probing his knowledge of his own resources first. He might answer that he can ask his sister for help until he gets paid on Friday. This way, rather than jumping to a resource outside of his network, he solves the problem himself.

Finding Housing – Leslie could ask “What kinds of things have you done so far to look for housing?” or “How could you find out about housing options?” Again, asking these questions before she launches into her resource list helps Mike access his prior knowledge and informal resources and build on them. It puts him in control. He may also learn skills he could use to avoid a similar situation in the future.

Rather than going back to the office to call other housing options (which I’ve done many times), Leslie could sit with Mike, discuss resources that he knows about and those she’s aware of, and provide him with the contact info for any new resources. She could suggest that he call them during the visit so that they can rule out any that aren’t available. Leslie could help Mike problem-solve next steps by developing a Coaching Plan to outline what’s happening now, what Mike wants to happen (which could be different from what Leslie thinks should happen), and what specific actions need to be taken (see The Early Childhood Coaching Handbook, pg 77). By working as a coach, rather than as a savior, Leslie will be providing more meaningful support that will hopefully increase Mike’s capacity to meet his family’s needs right now and in the future.

Leslie’s Next Visit

On her next visit, Mike mentions that he needs child care for Cailin so that he can find a job but he can’t afford to pay much. Remember that he lost his job a few months ago so must have had child care before…

How could you coach Mike through identifying resources (informal and formal), accessing and evaluating them?

Share your ideas for Leslie and Mike in the comments below!

Reference: Rush, D. D., & Shelden, M. L. (2011). The early childhood coaching handbook. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.

26 comments on “Can Service Coordinators Use Coaching?

  • Nathan Travis says:

    Gosh Dana. You are so good. This was an amazing write up. I really liked the topic and case study w/examples from “the book” in EI!! 🙂
    Keep up the great posts. I really wish all of our less resourceful and more “at risk” families could each have an iPhone w/data, text and call plan b/c it really would be sooooooo easy for them to do their own research, leg work and problem solving! I know it works for me in a split second! It would allow them to compare and narrow choices to what fits for them (transportation, cost, # of kids at daycare, etc) without having to do all the “running around” they want to do w/SCs or family members that are often tired of helping. My 2 cents. I know it’s a dream but it really would be nice for them!!! I guess if I was in their spot it would be the LAST thing on my mind but if it was donated or a charity thing…… Keep up the great work & posts!


    • Thanks Nathan! Yes, wouldn’t that be something if all families had access to a resource like that! You make a great point about it possibly being the last thing on a struggling family’s mind, but the truth is that many parents DO have a mobile phone. On our recent webinar about families who experience homelessness, the speaker said that many families do maintain a mobile phone because that method of contact travels with them no matter where they live. I’m not sure if they are able to pay for data (which can be pricey), but if they have do have internet access, perhaps the SC could coach them through how to efficiently search for resources, save them in the phone, etc. It’s a wonderful dream you’ve got there! 🙂

  • Leah Davidson says:

    Hi Dana! As a Service Coordinator, I especially like your point about putting the client in control. As uncomfortable as it can be for me to look someone in the eye and say “How might you go about finding a preschool/apartment/job/toys for your child?” I’m trying to do it more often. I’m trying to trust my clients more -trusting that they have the skills to think through the issue when given the space to do so. Reading this blog is a good reminder for me to keep striving to trust my clients first, rather than relying on my perspective to lead the conversation.

    • I’m so happy to read that you are trying this more often, Leah! It really isn’t easy to step back and trust this process. The great thing about it is that, as a service coordinator, you can still share your valuable perspective and knowledge of resources once you know where the family wants to go. I think using coaching as a service coordinator matches so well with that EI mantra of “meeting families where they are.” Now, with coaching strategies, we have more great ways to help us really find out where they are and where they want to go. Please keep me posted on how your practice grows as you using coaching!

  • Gabriela P says:

    In discussing Cailin and Mike’s need for child care, I would ask him, “How did you find child care in the past?” so that he could reflect on the process of seeking out resources himself. I would also ask, “What have you done to seek out new childcare, so far?” so that we can establish the steps he has taken, give him praise for his efforts, and evaluate how well the resources he has identified would work for his situation. Near the end, if he could not come up with any ideas of where to look, I would nudge him to reflect on the support systems he has in his life and ask, “Do you have any communities, religious or family, that you could draw on in this time of need?” as we have already discussed the help his sister has given in the past. I believe that coaching is the best practice strategy with parents when it comes to advocacy and seeking out supports and resources, because ECI providers will not always be there to complete those tasks for them.

  • eleana velasco says:

    I would ask Mike about the previous child care he used prior to losing his job because if he already was aware of and had child care then he probably has a good amount of knowledge on other child care services. Maybe he could be able to brain storm on other facilities and programs that he had previously looked into and could list them out. Then I would be able to provide him with lists of services I know of and encourage him to start calling those programs and weeding out and selecting through the list.

  • Michelle says:

    Hello! I would Mike how he could go about finding low cost childcare and found out what he knows before telling him about resources I may know of. I would have him call these resources during the visit to see if they are available to him. If the resource is available, I would ask him how he feels about it, and if there are other resources he could also look into.

  • Angelina says:

    Considering he likely had child care previously, it may be helpful to start as you mentioned by asking Mike questions to access his prior knowledge of informal and formal resources. If his prior child care service is inaccessible to now whether due to price or other reasons, then he could still find other services through the previous one. However, other resources that could be helpful are babysitting Facebook groups where various individuals capable in offering child services will post their help with negotiable price points.

  • Khoi Nguyen Bui says:

    I thought that all the information provided in this short article was very informative and I could easily see these practices being effective when applied to real-life situations. Coaching someone on how to do something instead of doing it for them will have a much more positive long-term effect. In Mike’s situation, if I was Leslie, I would apply the same coaching strategy as previously and ask him what options does he currently has relating to his living situation so probe his current knowledge. He could possibly solve his own situation before Leslie goes and helps him find other resources so that he can continue this same practice in the future.

  • Natalie Mo says:

    As Mike had experienced child care service before, I would ask him ‘How did you find the child care last time?’ So he could recall and evaluate the child care process in the past. Then I would ask if he knows any organizations or communities that provide low-cost services or any other ways he knows. If he could successfully point out, I would encourage him to do so by calling those programs. If not, I would suggest some ways or resources available to him and ask him to try reaching out by himself.

  • Gracelyn E. says:

    I thought the information presented in this article is very true and interesting! Although service coordination may seem like less of a “teaching” opportunity, if done correctly, a service coordinator can practice AND teach. In Cailin and Mike’s situation, I would encourage Leslie to question Mike about his previous childcare arrangements. Based off of what he has or has not previously set up, Leslie could help show Mike where he can find resources for affordable childcare options nearby. Additionally, supporting Mike in gathering information about resources/services, rather than Leslie finding all of those resources for him, will allow Mike to have more options and knowledge when presented with a similar situation in the future.

  • Sheryl Wong says:

    As Mike is well aware that he needs a child care and he had child care before he lost the job, he might have some ideas in mind. I would talk to him and ask about his previous experience in finding affordable child care and the contacts he might have, before I provide extra information and contacts to him. I think that would also help increasing Mike’s capacity to meet his family’s needs right now and in the future.

  • Marlyl Pozos says:

    I would ask Mike “What resources did you use before and how did you implement them into your previous schedule? I would also ask if he knows where he can seek out free services and how tech literate he is. There are resources online that can help him but it is hard if he is unfamiliar with the process of seeking that type of information out. For example, libraries are places that most people are familiar with and they usually provide free computer/internet usage that Mike could use if he can no longer afford to pay for those services.

  • Lauren Serra says:

    How could you coach Mike through identifying resources (informal and formal), accessing and evaluating them?

    Hello Dana! Mike mentioned he was employed which means he previously had childcare for Cailin. I would ask Mike how he found child care for his daughter in the past. This question would allow mike to recall where he previously searched for child care and where he successfully found it. Hopefully, Mike would be able to list a few resources he used to find child care in the past. Mike is facing financial instability due to job loss so his options for child care are going to be more limited than before. My next question for Mike would be if he has determined a budget for child care. This question would allow Mike to think about what he can afford for Cailin. Hopefully, Mike has determined a price range for child care. I would then provide Mike with a list of options for childcare. I would encourage Mike to look into these options and determine which ones are within his means.

  • Shelby I says:

    I think this piece on coaching is essential for long term success. If we don’t allow for families to learn, and to gain trust in their own abilities, then the work we are doing isn’t as preventative as it could be. I would start by asking Mike what options he knows of right now to help with childcare. I would listen to his response and then build off of his ideas, working together to go through the steps he would need to take if ever in the same situation again. I would be sure to follow up and ensure that appropriate childcare was found.

  • Vivian Nguyen says:

    This writeup contains analytical thinking from Leslie, who wants to find help for Mike and his child. Additionally, we get to read and focus on the main factors that contribute to effective coaching for EI. I definitely agree that coaching should involve teaching families effective ways to be an advocate for themselves, but where does it start? Leslie wanted to help find Mike some childcare services, as Mike recently lost a job. I would begin by obtaining Mike’s pre-knowledge on how he took care of his child when he did have a job, including the child’s babysitter, how often does he shop for baby necessities, etc. This would help Leslie begin her search on teaching Mike effective ways to be an advocate for himself.

  • Rachel Dunkley says:

    I would ask Mike what he used for child care before he lost his job. After finding out what he knows, I would work with him to brainstorm other possible options that are cohesive with his and his child’s needs at this time. After this, I would consider what services align best with him and I would provide him with some possible resources and services and their contact information to make reaching out easy for him. It is important that he feels like he has control over his child care and that I would only be there to guide him in the right direction.

  • Yesica Pineda says:

    I definitely believe service coordinators can use coaching during their assessments/evaluations. Coaching is part of their job, regardless if they got the job through a coursework or degree. Coaching in my opinion is not just a “teacher’s” job or a “therapist’s.” I believe everyone can use coaching in their careers. It is how we learn from others and assist them in any need. Using the coaching strategies within gathering the information and making sure the client understand his/her needs before calling into action is important to know. After, I agree the next step would be finding the appropriate resources for that family. I think the main concern here should be knowing all of those resources and having them on handy ready to share when needed. That would save time from going into the office and having to sit down and find the resources. It is a lot to think about, but another job requirement and protocol is not to make relationships with the clients in what so ever aspect. Therefore coaching would be perfect. The service coordinator in this case is not simply providing right a way the resource, but rather taking time to make the client understand and help them cope with their need to see if they might come up with other solutions themselves. The only follow up would be in the future asking again for other resources the service coordinator might have to help the family again.

  • Emily Swinney says:

    Hello Dana!

    Like you said, I would start with asking Mike what resources he knows about. Maybe he has struggled with this before or knows someone who has and he can revisit/utilize those resources. He may have ideas or resources he knows about, is comfortable using and that may be more useful/accessible to him. For childcare, it is very possible that he is uncomfortable with letting Cailin stay with strangers, so utilizing resources he is comfortable with is super important (maybe his own church daycare, family or friends that he trusts). I really like the coaching approach to this issue because it gives him more control of the situation and is probably more comfortable for him than just being told what to do.

  • Janelly says:

    It seems that Mike has already had childcare in the past therefore it may be fitting to ask “how did you go about obtaining childcare with your previous job?” After he responds, I would ask if there are any other possible options such as a family member for example. In the case where he has no one to help, I would then help find resources that would best fit his situation.

  • Richard T Tran says:

    How could you coach Mike through identifying resources (informal and formal), accessing and evaluating them?

    Since Mike has had access to childcare in the past, it would be appropriate and beneficial to ask Mike what childcare services he is aware of in order to empower him to dig up resources on his. I would also encourage Mike to contact these identified services and explore the options he has with them, and this would help Mike develop the necessary skills to evaluate different resources.

  • Emily Galo says:

    I really love how you broke this down. I think I would try to implement the coaching method by asking rather than “doing”. I’d ask him what his childcare looked like in the past as well as what he has done so far to try to find childcare. Is there any area in his life that he has noticed has caused problems in finding childcare? I think it would be best to try to find which resources work best for his circumstances based on his responses, it would be best to include him every step of the way to hopefully allow him to feel like a part of a team and for him to have control over his situation.

  • my says:

    I would urge Mike to find out the resources he can find available to him that he might not know of already. Then I would give him the reassurance that he’s doing just fine and help him sort through which needs he needs to address first. Creating a priority list (diapers then housing, or housing then diapers) can also help with checking off the to-do list.

  • Karla says:

    I agree with you that coaching can be hard and giving the child the option to do it instead of doing it for them seem like it would work to make it easier. Would you recommend for a parent to be taught different ways of saying things and working as a parenting class?

  • Devin Rosssman says:

    I think coaching is very important for setting up families for long term success instead of short term. We want to set the family up with the tools to be able to problem solve on their own. I would urge mike to make a list of what he needs to get done and ask him how he has gone about solving those problems in the past. If he can access those resources again he should and if he can’t maybe we would work together to find solutions. Letting him lead the charge and supporting him and reassuring him throughout the process.

  • Abby Miller says:

    Hi Dana! I really love the coaching philosophy you presented and agree that it’s better to teach someone about resources available to them rather than doing most of the work yourself while leaving them in the dark. Having Mike identify and state resources of his own also lightens the mental load of EI workers and gives parents more control. For child care for Cailin, I would ask Mike if any of his immediate family are open to watching her, or if he has access to libraries or local internet sources in which he can look up local babysitter rates. Thank you for the insightful post!


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