Insights from the Field
Based on the literature and the experiences of the demonstration grantees, the National Technical Assistance and Evaluation Center has identified three broad categories that represent the multiple realms of family involvement (case, peer, and system levels), as illustrated in Figure 1 (below). Although family involvement can take shape differently in the case, peer, or system levels, the core values of collaboration and mutual respect guide work in each.
"Family group conferencing is our foundational practice. Seeing what people can do when you empower them—the solutions they can come up with—it is really amazing to see what people can do together."
- Agency Staff
Case-level family involvement integrates family-centered practices to promote the full engagement of parents and families throughout the development, implementation, and assessment of their case plans. Families and agency practitioners work as partners to develop a shared understanding of the family's problems and formulate solutions. Demonstration grantees use Family Group Decision Making, Team Decision Making, Child-Family Teams, and other family-centered practices to engage families in case planning activities. Preliminary feedback from the national evaluation indicates that some parents and child welfare agency staff believe these practices foster trust between families and child welfare workers.
Peer-level family involvement features implementation of a peer support model in which parents who have been involved in child welfare serve as mentors, partners, or resource guides to help other parents navigate the child welfare system and meet case plan goals. Through peer support, parents develop the skills necessary to have positive experiences with child welfare agencies (Cohen & Canan, 2006).
System-level family involvement often includes parent participation on statewide advisory councils or other system design or decision-making committees. Families often serve as trainers for agency staff on issues related to consumer involvement and client satisfaction, or co-train with agency staff on family engagement and inclusion. Families that have been involved with child welfare possess valuable firsthand knowledge about the agency, and often have great passion for and investment in making child welfare better for others.
"Parents come with expertise the 'experts' don't have-it can really enhance, support, and assist. That's real partnership..."
- Family Partner
Figure 1: Realms of Family Involvement