Family-centered services are based upon the belief that the best place for children to grow up is in a family and the most effective way to ensure children's safety, permanency, and well-being is to provide services that engage, involve, strengthen, and support families.
Key components of family-centered practice include:
- Working with the family unit to ensure the safety and well-being of all family members
- Strengthening the capacity of families to function effectively by focusing on solutions
- Engaging, empowering, and partnering with families throughout the decision- and goal-making processes
- Developing a relationship between parents and service providers characterized by mutual trust, respect, honesty, and open communication
- Providing individualized, culturally responsive, flexible, and relevant services for each family
- Linking families with collaborative, comprehensive, culturally relevant, community-based networks of supports and services
The following resources address the underlying values and principles of family-centered practice as well as key elements of providing family-centered services.
Characteristics and Trends in Family-Centered Conceptualizations
Epley, Summers, & Turnbull
Journal of Family Social Work, 13(3), 2010
Examines current conceptualizations of family-centered practice in an effort to determine whether there is a common definition and how that definition has changed over the past decade.
Collaborative Helping: A Practice Framework for Family-Centered Services (PDF - 167 KB)
Offers a framework for collaborative family-centered practice that introduces collaborative inquiry as an organizing metaphor for clinical practice and offers a five-step practice framework with clinical illustrations and sample questions.
CWLA Standards of Excellence for Services to Strengthen and Preserve Families With Children
Child Welfare League of America (2003)
Describes the services and supports that should be available to all families, emphasizing three service strategies: family resource, support, and education; family-centered casework; and intensive family-centered crisis services.
Kansas Intensive Permanency Project (KIPP) Program Manual
University of Kansas School of Social Welfare & Kansas Department of Children and Families (2016)
Examines KIPP's implementation process by sharing reflections, lessons learned, and practical implementation experiences. This manual can assist others in replicating KIPP or implementing similar programs tailored to their local communities.
Participatory Planning in Child Welfare Services Literature Review: Selected Models, Components and Research Findings (PDF - 770 KB)
Northern California Training Academy (2008)
Discusses how participatory planning is being implemented in models and programs working with children and families within the child welfare system and what has been learned (from empirical studies) about how these participatory planning practices benefit children and families.
The Power of the Parents’ Voice
Child Welfare Information Gateway (2018)
Features parents’ stories to better understand the impact child welfare services can have on families and help agencies shift to a family-centered approach.
Working Definition of Family-Driven Care (PDF - 1,536 KB)
National Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health (2008)
Describes family-driven care as services in which families have a primary decision-making role in the care of their own children as well as the policies and procedures governing care for all children in their community, State, Tribe, territory, and nation.
State and local examples
The Application of the Six Family Centered Principles of Partnership (PDF - 416 KB)
North Carolina Division of Social Services (2007)
Uses a table format to explain the seven strategies of North Carolina's Multiple Response System (MRS). The chart lists each MRS strategy, as well as each strategy's intended impact on North Carolina's families and social work practice.
Critical Elements for Family Team Decision Making (PDF - 206 KB)
Advocates for Children and Youth (2009)
Describes the essential elements of a credible plan to expand family-centered case practice that Maryland is implementing to enable more families to safely keep their own children and keep more children out of foster homes or group care.
Family-Centered Practice in Three Florida Innovation Sites: Evaluation Brief - Years 1 and 2 (PDF - 946 KB)
Falconer & Thompson (2012)
Discusses the challenges in the evaluation of the implementation of family-centered practice at three Florida innovation sites in the areas of communication and coordination between child welfare professionals and community partners, family team conferences, home visits, and coordination between child welfare staff and the judiciary.
Philosophical Base of Child Welfare Practice (PDF - 31 KB)
Missouri Department of Social Services Children's Division (2008)
Explains the role of the Missouri Children's Division and its emphasis on family-centered services and preserving connections, including its focus on five protective factors. Reviews steps Children's Service Workers should take to implement family-centered practice lists key principles.