FFT-Therapeutic Case Management (Deaf Services): A Partnership with the New York Foundling
By Andrea Morgia, FFT Partners Senior Consultant
When FFT Partners began our journey using the FFT-TCM model with the Deaf Services program at the New York Foundling, I knew that it would be a learning experience beyond anything I had previously experienced in my time as a consultant for Partners. Nine months into the program, I reflected on how far our team had come and the realization that the team taught me much more about the deaf communities’ social beliefs, traditions, values, and shared institutions then I would have ever predicted.
The New York Foundling is the only specialized provider of family support programs for families with children in which there are one or more Deaf or Hard of Hearing members. In December 2019, the Deaf Services team began providing home-based services across New York City, using the evidence-based Functional Family Therapy – Therapeutic Case Management (FFT-TCM) model. It was at this point that I was first introduced to this committed group of clinicians.
Quickly I learned that our traditional way of training was not going to fit this unique and very specialized culture. The Deaf and Hard of Hearing community is diverse. There are variations in how a person becomes deaf or hard of hearing, level of hearing, age of onset, educational background, communication methods, and cultural identity. How people “label” or identify themselves is personal and may reflect identification with the deaf and hard of hearing community. As a Consultant, I needed to orient myself to this early on in my attempts to better help these families, so knowing which family members are Deaf and which are hearing, as well as who signs or doesn’t sign in the family, is imperative. This almost always has a unique impact on how the family relates to each other and to the various systems surrounding them, and is often a very good clue regarding the power dynamics, functioning, alliances, etc. of the family. Feedback, especially the “family voice” is also vital from the families and from the clinicians who are very much a part of the culture they live and work in.
In addition, the consultant team worked with the Deaf Services clinicians to establish a new glossary for the FFT lingo used frequently in our supervisions. Once the meaning of these terms was well understood, the team decided how it would be signed universally going forward. This was a necessary task so that learning was clear, concise, and the process was shared by everyone.
We know that Deaf or Hard of Hearing children and adults often have trouble accessing the services and the community support they need. The FFT-TCM Deaf Services team works diligently at increasing this capacity, and thus require quality and culturally sensitive training in order to do good work. As we continue on this journey together of servicing these families, I strive to always be continuously learning and challenging myself and my team to stay culturally focused. That is essential to the success of what these families are capable of.