Family-centered care was first popularized in the 1980s as part of former Surgeon General Koop's initiative for coordinated care for children with special health care needs and their families. Simply put, family-centered care is about being responsive to the priorities and choices of families. To practice in a family-centered manner requires healthcare providers to shift form a professionally-centered view to recognizing that families are central in a child's life and their values need to be central to the plan of care.
It is always obvious to me and my own family when we encounter family-centered care. We immediately feel welcomed as partners of the health care team, and it seems like our family's strengths and areas of expertise are immediately acknowledged. It is as if our input and opinion really matters.
We've also been on the "other side" of care which wasn't family-centered. In these situations, the health care provider usually made it immediately known who had been to medical school and who had not. In these situations, it was quickly made clear to us that the unique values and opinions of our family were secondary to those of the physicians.
Once our family understood that we would be caring for a member with a chronic condition which would require frequent visits to the doctor for years to come, we consciously made the decision to seek out those providers who believed in family-centered care. It wasn't easy, nor was it immediate. But it has certainly been worth it.
If family-centered care sounds like it may be a good match for you or your family, I suggest you make it a priority when searching for the best health care provider. Those who are practicing family-centered care, especially at large hospitals, usually make it clear on their website. You can also find out by asking for a referral from a local health care provider who knows you and your family, and understands what an important role you play in caring.
Additional Resources on Family-Centered Care: