Families Headed by a Parent With Cognitive Limitations

Rationale for the Initiative

The number of families headed by a parent with cognitive limitations is unknown, although estimates range from 30-50% of parents served in the child welfare system. (Azar) People with cognitive limitations have difficulty with executive functioning, (e.g  tasks such as planning, organizing, integrating memory, and regulating emotion). In every day life they have trouble scheduling and keeping appointments, exhibit poor judgment, and have difficulty setting limits and following through.  These limitations result in problems maintaining a home, a job, their children, and benefits. Isolation, lack of transportation, and few community supports tailored to meet their needs are persistent problems for these families.

Service providers often inaccurately identify these parents as having mental illness or substance abuse issues. When services designed for these other populations are not effective for such parents, they are often labeled as resistant to the services and blamed for the ongoing difficulties within the family.  Identification of this population is the first step in creating/adapting services tailored to meet their needs.   

Rationale for this approach to providing services

The AJ Pappanikou Center, through a one year planning grant, collaborated with the Parents with Cognitive Limitations Workgroup, the Department of Children and Families Bridgeport Office, the Bureau of Prevention, Early Intervention and the Office of the Ombudsman, the Bridgeport Child Advocacy Coalition and other state and private agencies, to plan one stop centers for families headed by a parent with cognitive limitations in Bridgeport.  If implementation funding is secured, this initiative will provide not only a continuum of direct services to families identified as headed by a parent with cognitive limitations but, will also support the community through trainings and technical assistance to assist in adapting current services to meet the needs of these families.

The mission of this initiative is multi-fold:  Parents and their children are assured opportunities that foster optimal development in a safe, stable and nurturing environment. This system will recognize that for many of these families, varying degrees of supportive services will be required throughout their lives.  The system will be family focused, flexible and culturally competent.

The proposed continuum of services will be available depending on the family’s level of need. As the developmental needs of the children change, the level of support needed may change as well. A menu of services (which could exist independent of each other) will include: parent education, educational advocacy, intensive in-home supports and housing options.


Goal I. To increase community providers and other  professionals’ knowledge about parents with cognitive limitations through trainings so that current providers will be able to identify these families and tailor their services to meet the needs of this population.

Goal II. To create a strategic plan in collaboration with the A.J. Pappanikou Center during 05/06) to plan a coordinated system of policies, practices and services for families headed by parents with cognitive limitations in Bridgeport, CT.  

Goal III. To create and secure funding for a continuum of services for families headed by parents with cognitive limitations.

Goal IV. To conduct an evaluation of the initiative.