In child welfare practice, families are recognized as experts in determining what is best for themselves and their children. Agencies and professionals may enter into partnerships with families and youth to give them a voice in all aspects of policy, program, and service design; decision-making; implementation; and evaluation. Effective family engagement occurs when child welfare practitioners actively collaborate and partner with family members throughout their involvement with the child welfare system, recognizing them as the experts on their respective situations and empowering them in the process. Family engagement is a prerequisite for helping the family achieve its goals, particularly reunification. The following resources address how to understand and fully engage families in child welfare services and include State and local examples.
The Child and Family Practice Model Program Manual (CAPP)
California Partners for Permanency (2016)
Includes three manuals detailing the implementation of the Child and Family Practice Model (CFPM) created by the California Partners for Permanency program through a Permanency Innovations Initiative grant. Together, the three manuals help build a base of replicable interventions that can serve the complex needs of diverse communities of children and families.
Engaging Youth and Caregivers in Developing Support Services
Highlights the importance of meaningful engagement of birth, adoptive, and kinship families occurs and provides tips on how to engage parents, caregivers, and youth to work collaboratively to achieve the needs of the family.
Family Empowerment E-learning [Webinar]
Capacity Building Center for States (2018)
Provides an overview of the Family Empowerment Leadership Academy (FELA), which is a learning experience designed to assist States in building their system capacity to involve family leaders at all levels of agency administration and practice. This webinar requires the user to create a free login.
Family Group Decision Making (FGDM) A Guide for Service Providers (PDF - 73 KB)
University of Colorado, Kempe Center
Provides guidelines, instructions, and references explaining family group decision-making in child welfare.
How Can Child Protection Agencies Authentically Engage With Parents?
Casey Family Programs (2020)
Presents a question-and-answer session with a professional from the Washington State Office of Public Defense and a birth parent and mentor from Morrison Child and Family Services in Oregon on how child welfare agencies can engage with parents. The discussion covers parents' experiences with caseworkers, how caseworkers can help prevent the removal of children, family treatment, systems change, utilizing parents with lived experiences, and engaging with communities.
How Do Parent Partner Programs Instill Hope and Support Prevention and Reunification?
Casey Family Programs (2019)
Explores how child welfare agencies have been using a peer mentor or parent partner approach to engage families. The resource reviews the benefits of parent partner programs, describes the evidence base for these programs, outlines how parent partner programs are structured and funded, and more.
Parent Partner Programs for Families Involved in the Child Welfare System
California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare
Describes parent partner programs reviewed and rated by the clearinghouse for their effectiveness in engaging parents to meeting their goals in safety, permanency, and well-being. Also see Motivation and Engagement Programs.
Partners in Planning – When Parents Are Supported to Participate in Planning, We Can Make Better Decisions
Examines the importance of parent perspectives and involvement in case planning. The article presents a personal story about a foster care agency worker's experience working directly with families.
Speak Up Be Safe: Prevention Education Curriculum
Provides recommendations for strategies that can be used by community-based organizations to support the child abuse prevention efforts of schools and to reinforce the messages of the Speak Up Be Safe program in the community.
Strange Bedfellows: How Child Welfare Agencies Can Benefit From Investing in Multidisciplinary Parent Representation (PDF - 945 KB)
Center for the Study of Social Policy (2015)
Explores how child welfare agencies can benefit from effectively engaging parents in all aspects of case planning. If parents are not effectively engaged, agencies will too often fail in their efforts to either reunify a family or achieve another permanency goal for the children.
Strategies for Authentic Integration of Family and Youth Voice in Child Welfare (PDF - 454 KB)
Capacity Building Center for States (2019)
Reviews tools and strategies for child welfare agencies to engage families and youth and addresses ways agencies can integrate their input to improve outcomes for children, youth, and families.
A User’s Guide to the Family Empowerment Leadership Academy (FELA) Resources
Capacity Building Center for States (2019)
Helps child welfare professionals and others acquire a high-level understanding of the Family Empowerment Leadership Academy's collection of products, which supports agencies and family leaders in applying a structured, research-based approach to planning, initiating, and sustaining family engagement and empowerment programs and strategies.
A User's Guide to the Parent Partner Program Navigator
Capacity Building Center for States (2019)
Presents tools and resources for agencies to use to improve existing parent partner programs or design and implement new ones. This web-based tool includes four learning domains: assessing readiness needs and capacity, program design, program management, and engagement & partnerships.
What Are the Four Tiers of Authentic Family Engagement? [Video]
Casey Family Programs (2018)
Presents the four tiers of family engagement for child welfare professionals, as outlined by the Birth Parent National Network. The video describes how child welfare agencies can operate at all four tiers to engage family members.
What Parents Say About...Supporting Families to Provide a Strong Start for Their Young Children
Children's Trust Fund Alliance
Provides a parent perspective on prevention strategies and the need for more coordination across systems, community support and things to consider during COVID-19.
Collaborative Family Engagement: A Promising Approach to Supporting Children in State Care (PDF - 286 KB)
Child & Family Research Partnership (2017)
Describes a project in Texas in which court-appointed special advocates and child protective services are collaborating to implement an adaptation of the Family Finding Model, a structured approach to extensively searching for and engaging adult relatives and family friends to provide additional support to children in out-of-home care.
Engaging Families in Child Welfare [Video]
The Annie E. Casey Foundation (2016)
Presents a video interview with Shirley Roberts, director of the Delaware Division of Family Services. The discussion covers the power of family and family engagement as well as the State's proactive approach in aiding at-risk teens as well as how anyone can help support a child in foster care. The discussion on family engagement begins around the 12:50 mark in the video.
Engaging the Child, Family, and Significant Adults (PDF - 587 KB)
Virginia Department of Social Services (2017)
In Child and Family Services Manual
Reviews the importance of family engagement that involves all aspects of parenting with youth and families in a deliberate manner to make well-informed decisions about safety, permanency, lifelong connections, and well-being. Family engagement is important to ensure the child's safety, stabilize the child's family when in crisis, prevent placement in foster care, and provide support for the child when foster care placement is necessary.
Regional Parent Engagement Advisory Groups
Be Strong Families (2018)
Describes Regional Parent Engagement Advisory Groups (RPEAs), which are made up of parents who want to make changes in the lives of children and families in their communities. These parents share their stories and the power of meaningful parent engagement, and they can weigh in on local and national agendas and bring parental issues and concerns to the table. RPEAs are currently in Philadelphia, Chicago, and Los Angeles, with groups coming to Oakland, the District of Columbia, and New York City.
University of Denver, Butler Institute for Families
Provides information and resources about the Family Contact Improvement Partnership, a group of organizations, agencies, and community stakeholders committed to improving family contact for children who are in out-of-home care. The website includes a family contact best practices guide (PDF - 7,895 KB) for professionals and a video explaining the importance of meaningful, healthy, and culturally-centered family contact for children in out-of-home care.
Team Decision Making Touted as Key to Missouri Child Welfare Improvements
The Annie E. Casey Foundation (2018)
Describes the collaborative, family-centered approach of team decision-making used in Missouri to make placement decisions and keep children safe.