Series: Bulletins for Professionals|
Child Welfare Information Gateway. |
|Year Published: 2010|
Specific Strategies That Reflect Family Engagement
Family engagement strategies build on the foundation of agency commitment and caseworker skills. State agencies have adopted various strategies for engaging families at case, peer, and systems levels, frequently adapting existing models to meet their own needs. Family engagement strategies include but are not limited to:
- Frequent and substantive caseworker visits. Workers must have frequent and meaningful contact with families in order to engage them in the work that needs to be done to protect children, promote permanency, and ensure child well-being. States where caseworkers have regular and well-focused visits with the child and parent have demonstrated improved permanency and well-being outcomes in the CFSRs. Frequent visits with parents also are positively associated with better client-worker relationships; better outcomes in discipline and emotional care of children; timely establishment of permanency goals; timely filing for termination of parental rights; and reunification, guardianship, or permanent placement with relatives (Lee & Ayón,2004; HHS, 2004).
- Family group decision-making (FGDM) is an effective and increasingly popular case-level strategy for engagement in the United States and around the world. FGDM is an umbrella term for various processes in which families are brought together with agency personnel and other interested parties to make decisions about and develop plans for the care of their children and needed services. FGDM strategies differ in meeting format, the stage during case meetings when they are held, the extent of family preparation, the extent of family privacy time, and other characteristics. The models are known by a variety of names and include:
- Family group conferences
- Family team conferences
- Family team meetings
- Family unity meetings
- Motivational interviewing is a directive counseling method for enhancing intrinsic motivation and promoting behavior change by helping families explore and resolve ambivalence. This technique, which relies heavily on listening reflectively and asking directive questions, has shown positive results in working with child welfare populations with substance abuse issues (California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare).
- Collaborative strategies emphasize working in partnership with families in a strength-based way to support achievement of case goals and objectives. Examples include Collaborative Helping (Madsen, 2009), the Signs of Safety approach (Turnell & Edwards, 1999), and solution-focused practice (Berg &De Jong, 2004; Antle, Barbee, Christensen, & Martin, 2008).
- An active and meaningful role for families can be achieved by involving them in case planning and checking in with them during visits about their understanding of and progress toward the plan. Involvement of the family in case planning is correlated with greater engagement of noncustodial and incarcerated parents, family-centered/strength-based approaches, and stronger rapport between workers and families (HHS, 2009).
- Father involvement recognizes the importance of fathers to the healthy development of children. Agencies are increasingly reaching out to fathers and working to enhance their positive involvement with their children. Fatherhood programs vary greatly. Some are outreach efforts to include fathers in assessment and case planning processes; others help fathers address stressors or behaviors that affect their ability to support their children.
- Family search and engagement encourages broad-based participation in family decision-making to leverage kinship connections and increase placement/permanency options.
- Mediation, adopted by many agencies and courts, allows agency representatives and families to work with a neutral facilitator to arrive at a mutually acceptable plan.
- Parent Partner Programs engage parents who were once involved with the child welfare system to serve as mentors to currently involved parents, providing support, advocacy, and help navigating the system. Parent Partner Programs also use the birth parent experience to influence changes in policy and protocol, encourage shared decision-making, strengthen individualized plans, and educate the community.
- Foster family-birth family meetings encourage birth families and foster families to share information, help model parenting skills, and support participation of foster families in placement conferences that contribute to reunification efforts.
- Parent and youth involvement in agency councils and boards is a proactive way for State and county agencies to gather and use parent and youth input in program and policy development, service design, and program evaluation.
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