Systems of Care and Family Involvement: Defining Family Involvement
In child welfare driven systems of care, launching and sustaining system change requires the meaningful participation of families as partners, as much as public and private child- and family-serving agencies and other stakeholders, in the network of service providers that comprise systems of care.
Involving families as partners means that agencies and stakeholders:
- Acknowledge families as experts on their own needs;
- Ensure an active and meaningful role for family members in a variety of areas; and
- Provide diverse opportunities for family members to participate in shared decision-making.
However, communities face considerable challenges in making family-agency partnerships a reality. Unlike parents involved with many other child-serving systems, most parents involved with child welfare do not request services from or self-refer to child welfare agencies. Additional stressors accompanying the possibility of termination of parental rights strain the intended helping relationship between agency practitioners and child welfare-involved families even further (Whipple & Zalenski, 2006). Under such conditions, distrust and resistance can impede progress toward fostering family-agency partnerships.