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Principle 2: Transparency and Trust

Building and maintaining trust with children, youth and their families is an important foundation for a healthy relationship, requiring active effort from staff and organizations.

Building and maintaining trust can be difficult, and takes work.

Based on their previous history, children and/or their families may have reason to be distrustful of those who have power to make decisions that can impact their lives. This distrust can manifest as anger, opposition, resistance, and/or non-compliance.

There are also entire communities, such as Black, Hispanic/Latino, Asian, Native American, LGBTQ+, people living with disabilities, and immigrant/refugee communities, that have historically been and may continue to be subjected to abuse, harm, and exploitation by powerful institutions and individuals.

An effective tool in building trust is transparency. Ways of building trust and promoting transparency can include:

Engaging in open, clear, and collaborative conversations with children and their families, especially regarding decisions that directly impact the child.

Involving children and their families in conversations regarding information sharing, including:

  • Explaining the legal and practical implications of information-sharing and disclosures.
  • Being transparent and open about what information must be shared and with whom, by law and/or policy.
  • Giving children and their families the opportunity to specify what information should remain confidential and what can be shared, within legal and policy boundaries.

Modeling that trust is a two-way street. Show families that you trust them, and gain their trust in return, by being curious about more than what they came to see you for.

Providing information in a timely and developmentally appropriate manner and in the method (e.g. letter, text, email, voicemail, video message) and language chosen by the child/family, when possible.

Being honest and realistic with children/families about challenges and barriers (e.g. waiting lists for services, legal limitations) and taking care not to make promises that cannot be kept.

Admitting to children/families when a mistake has been made and making efforts to repair any harm caused.

Providing youth/families with multiple opportunities to communicate with senior management if they do not feel heard by staff, without fear of reprisal.

Connecting children/families with interpreters (as needed), family partners and/or peer support, and involving these individuals in conversations when possible to promote open and clear communication.

Interpreter with kids

Hiring staff from backgrounds that reflect the diversity of families served, including staff who have the lived experience to act as liaisons between families and care providers.

Ensuring that all staff who have contact with families are adequately trained to create a respectful and welcoming environment.

Giving someone positive feedback

Using strengths-based language that promotes healing for children and families, while emphasizing the existing resources that families have in place. When interacting with pre- or non-verbal children, TIR adults can community this through their tone of voice, body language, positive physical contact, and play.

Maintaining consistency throughout the relationship with the youth and their family to the extent possible (e.g. avoiding rescheduled appointments, following through).

Ensuring that staff have a structured approach to discovering family strengths and connections in order to maintain a respectful, empathetic, and trusting relationship.

Children Having Fun And Balancing On Tree In Fall Woodland
Diverse group of elementary age little boys and little girls are sitting in a circle in school library or therapist's office. Students are attending group therapy or counseling session. Mid adult African American man is counselor or therapist. He is pointing to child whose hand is raised to ask a question.