Definitions - Family Engagement Inventory

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Definitions of Family Engagement

The definition domain includes statements, phrases, and/or quotations that explain the meaning of or provide a description of family engagement for each discipline referenced in the inventory. This section highlights a family engagement definition from research on the designated discipline.

Child Welfare

Family engagement is a family-centered, strength-based approach to establishing and maintaining relationships with families and accomplishing change together. At the practice level, this includes setting goals, developing case plans, making joint decisions, and working with families to ensure their children's safety, permanency, and well-being. It encompasses the inclusion of children and youth (when age appropriate), as well as adult family members, in case planning and case activities, and also involves supporting the development of relationships between resource families and biological families. On an organizational or system level, family engagement means including families as key stakeholders and advisors in policy development, service design, and program and service evaluation.


Effective family empowerment is the act of engaging, involving, and lifting up the voice of families throughout the child welfare continuum–at the practice and system level. It promotes family buy-in; enhances the helping relationship; and promotes the safety, permanency, and well-being of children and families. When families feel they are a part of the process, they are more motivated to make needed changes. Family empowerment allows them to be the drivers of the decision-making process rather than being told what to do. When family buy-in is achieved, reunification rates are improved and overall family outcomes are better.

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Juvenile Justice

Within juvenile justice, family engagement occurs when the justice system respects family members as partners and facilitates their ongoing participation in decision-making regarding the youth's rehabilitation.


Family engagement: any role or activity that enables families to have direct and meaningful input into and influence on systems, policies, programs, or practices affecting services for children and families.

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Behavioral Health

Family engagement within behavioral health concerns the attitudes, behaviors, and affect of family members regarding particular interventions or treatment options. Increased family engagement at the practice and system level often results in better outcomes for individuals being treated and involved family members.


Family engagement is the process in which families and youth have a primary decision-making role in the youth's treatment. Families are involved in making decisions regarding providers involved in the treatment team, and are encouraged to express preferences, needs, priorities, and disagreements. In addition, families actively collaborate in treatment plan development and in identifying desired goals and outcomes. Families are provided with thorough information to guide their decision-making and make joint decisions with their treatment team. Families actively monitor treatment modifications and treatment outcomes.

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Family engagement in schools is defined as parents and school personnel working together at the classroom, local, and system level to support and improve the learning, development, and health of children and adolescents. Family engagement in schools is a shared responsibility in which schools and other community agencies and organizations are committed to reaching out to engage parents in meaningful ways, and the parents are committed to actively supporting their children's and adolescents' learning and development.


Parental involvement in education is the participation of parents in regular, two-way, and meaningful communication involving students' academic learning and other school activities. Parental involvement helps ensure that the following occur:

  • Parents play an integral role in assisting their children's learning.
  • Parents are encouraged to be actively involved in their children's education at school.
  • Parents are full partners in their children's education and are included, as appropriate, in decision-making and on advisory committees to assist in their children's education
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Early Childhood Education

Family engagement refers to the systematic inclusion of families in activities and programs that promote children's development, learning, and wellness, including in planning, development, and evaluation. For family engagement to be integrated throughout early childhood systems and programs, providers and schools must engage families as essential partners while providing services that encourage children's learning and development, nurture positive relationships between families and staff, and support families.


Family engagement is the process used to build genuine relationships with families. Relationships with families support overall family well-being and children's healthy development. When families are engaged, partnerships are created that have a common focus– helping children grow and thrive. Family engagement happens in the home, early childhood program, school, and community. It is a shared responsibility of all those who want children to succeed in school and in life. Family engagement is based on the idea that parents and others who care for their children work together to prepare children for success. The specific goals of the partnership for each family may vary and can depend on family preference, culture, and economic or social stresses. A true partnership honors a family's strengths and culture, mutual respect, and shared goals for the child.

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