Family-centered practice focuses on working with the family unit to strengthen family capacity and ensure the best possible outcomes for children. The family-centered principles of family empowerment and participation, focusing on strengths, and community-based support can be used in a variety of settings across child welfare and in other service systems. Family-centered practices can prevent child abuse and neglect as well as provide children with safety, stability, and continued well-being.
These resources address and provide examples of how a family-centered approach can be used across the child welfare service continuum.
- Preventing child abuse and neglect
- Responding to child abuse and neglect
- Supporting and preserving families
- Out-of-home care
Family Development Matrix: Pathways to the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect
Institute for Community Collaborative Studies & Strategies (2011)
Provides an integrated family assessment tool for case management and outcomes evaluation in county-based service networks and Tribal programs in California.
Family Spirit Program Replication
Johns Hopkins University (2012)
Provides an overview of the Family Spirit Program, an evidence-based and culturally tailored home visiting intervention delivered by Native American paraprofessionals as a core strategy to support young, vulnerable Native parents.
Preventing Child Maltreatment: A Comprehensive Plan for a Continuum of Family-Centered Community-Based Prevention and Intervention Services for Children, Youth and Families in Los Angeles County (PDF - 180 KB)
Los Angeles County Prevention Workgroup, Commission for Children and Families, Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (2006)
Presents key operational elements of a plan to decrease the disproportionate representation of children and youth of color in the child welfare system by focusing and coordinating preventive efforts, establishing long-lasting community partnerships, and building capacity to support children, youth, and families in communities throughout Los Angeles County.
Protective Factors Survey
FRIENDS National Resource Center for Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention (2008)
Offers a self-administered survey for use with caregivers receiving child maltreatment prevention services, measuring protective factors in five areas: family functioning/resiliency, social support, concrete support, nurturing and attachment, and knowledge of parenting/child development. The website includes the tool and a user manual.
Center for the Study of Social Policy
Describes an initiative to prevent child abuse and neglect by helping child welfare and early education professionals enhance protective factors in children, youth, and families.
Working Together for Children and Families: Where TANF and Child Welfare Meet
Berrick, Frame, Langs, & Varchol
Journal of Policy Practice, 5(2/3), 2006
Examines the link between family poverty and child maltreatment and the policy levers that can be used to inhibit or promote child and family well-being within the context of welfare reform.
Family-Centered Practice and Child Safety Management (PDF - 75 KB)
Action for Child Protection (2008)
Discusses strategies for employing family-centered practices and for building partnerships while providing tips for handling client resistance. The paper includes sample questions for incorporating family-centered practices into safety management.
Keeping Families Together: A Pilot Program and Its Evaluation (PDF - 119 KB)
Corporation for Supportive Housing, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (2011)
Explores lessons learned from a program that provided permanent supportive housing for homeless families that had at least one case of child abuse or neglect open with the city's Administration for Children's Services.
Strengthening Child Protective Services Intake (PDF - 343 KB)
North Carolina Family and Children's Resource Program and North Carolina Division of Social Services (2011)
Focuses on child protective services intake in North Carolina by examining administrative and outcome data while exploring ways to educate community partners about child protective services (CPS) intake/screening. Also offers strategies for overcoming legal and policy challenges, principles of family-centered practice, and tips for those who supervise CPS intake staff.
Strengthening Families Through Enhanced In-Home Support in Child Protective Services: Status Update (PDF - 203 KB)
Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (2009)
Discusses the findings of an evaluation of a program delivering preservation and reunification services to families impacted by poverty contributing to neglect.
Family Engagement: Maximizing Family Resources and Kinship Connections (PDF - 267 KB)
Advocacy, Inc.; Corinne Wolfe Children's Law Center; New Mexico CASA Network; New Mexico Children, Youth, and Families Department; New Mexico Citizen Review Board; & New Mexico Children's Court Improvement Commission (2011)
Discusses part of a series that focuses on best practices in the field of child protection that have demonstrated positive outcomes for children and families in New Mexico and nationally. Includes current practices for implementing family engagement strategies, best practices in family engagement, and the roles of different stakeholders in implementing best practices for family engagement.
Kinship Care and Communication: Family Portraits Project "Helping Teens to Tell Their Stories" (PDF - 803 KB)
Dunifon & DiSciullo (2011)
Cornell University Department of Policy Analysis and Management
Discusses a project that developed strategies to support the development of positive communication and strengthen family dynamics to promote open communication between grandparents and teens in kinship placements.
Port Arthur HOPE: Helping Our People Excel by Building on Community Strengths and Assets
Port Arthur HOPE, Casey Family Programs, & Texas Health and Human Services Commission Center for the Elimination of Disproportionality and Disparities (2011)
Describes a project that uses the Texas community engagement model and integrates strengths-based, family-centered practice into its efforts to engage the community and partner with systems to support at-risk children and families.
Supporting Refugee Families: Adapting Family Strengthening Programs That Build on Assets (PDF - 93 KB)
Bridging Refugee Youth and Children's Services (2010)
Explores how service providers in the United States can build on refugees' family and community strengths while also helping ease their transition into a different cultural context in which to raise their children.
Updating the System of Care Concept and Philosophy (PDF - 93 KB)
Stroul, Blau, & Friedman (2010)
National Technical Assistance Center for Children's Mental Health
Describes the strategies for using the system of care concept and philosophy and future directions for meeting the metal health needs of children and their families while improving the multiple levels of system of care implementation and evaluation.
Work-Family Conflict: Look to Employers and Communities for Solutions
Haskins, Waldfogel, & McLanahan (2011)
Discusses educational programs and services for families that face work/family-related challenges and employers that might also benefit from tools to help parents address such challenges.
Back on Track: Transforming Virginia's Child Welfare System (PDF - 2,028 KB)
Annie E. Casey Foundation (2010)
Describes the State's efforts to introduce a family-centered child welfare practice model, which increased both permanency rates and access to community-based care and reduced overall spending.
Children and Families First: A Chronicle of the Alameda County Social Services Agency Foster Care System
Casey Family Programs
Discusses the efforts and progress made by the Department of Children and Family Services of Alameda County, California, to reduce the number of youth in their child welfare system.
A Critical Dependency Court Resource: Relative Placements
The Judges' Page Newsletter, November 2011
National CASA Association and National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges
Examines the benefits and challenges of placing children with relatives from the perspective of those working with child dependency cases. Includes information regarding bringing parents and extended family into the court process through family group decision-making and pursuing evidence-based reasonable efforts.
Family Supports: Families for Iowa's Children (FIC) Project (PDF - 67 KB)
Iowa Children's Justice (2010)
Discusses a project that uses search technologies and family-centered practices to help children in foster care reconnect with family members and natural supports during and after their time in care.
Family to Family
Annie E. Casey Foundation
Offers tools and materials from an initiative in which States and communities are developing family-centered, neighborhood-based systems of foster care to promote permanence for all children.
Foster Care Redesign in Duval and Alachua Counties: An Implementation Assessment and Research Chronicle (PDF - 853 KB)
Casey Family Programs (2011)
Describes a redesign effort in two counties in Northeast Florida that focused on safely reducing the number of children in foster care through intensive family support and diversion services and was supported by title IV-E waivers from the Federal Government that allowed for flexible use of foster care funds.
Family Interactions: Pathway to Permanence (PDF - 50 KB)
Plitzner & Larsen (2010)
Describes Lutheran Social Service's Family Interaction Program, which provides parent-child visits in a safe and nurturing environment to support and build attachment for children in out-of-home care through hands-on parenting training.
Kinship Care (PDF - 55 KB)
National Resource Center for Family-Centered Practice & Permanency Planning (2009)
Presents a toolkit to help professionals find permanent kinship placements for children in the child welfare system. Explores the growth of kinship care, its advantages, the different types of kinship care, and research findings.
Never Too Old: Achieving Permanency and Sustaining Connections for Older Youth in Foster Care (PDF - 1,414 KB)
Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute (2011)
Explores research findings regarding the number of foster youth who age out of care, legal obligations for serving emancipating youth, outcomes for emancipated youth, and adoption and guardianship of older youth.
Six Steps to Find a Family: A Practice Guide to Family Search and Engagement (FSE) (PDF - 2,980 KB)
The National Resource Center for Family Centered Practice and Permanency Planning & California Permanency for Youth Project Provides detailed guidance on casework practice that supports family search and engagement in order to provide permanency for youth. Six steps focus on both youth involvement and practice steps to identify and involve kin and fictive kin in the youth's life.
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Child Welfare Information Gateway.
Download (PDF - 576KB)
Adoption Support and Preservation Services: A Continued Public Interest (PDF - 1,556 KB)
National Consortium for Post Legal Adoption Services (2012)
Provides guidelines for obtaining support and preservation services to prevent adoption dissolution.
Advocating for Post-Adoption Support: Tools to Promote Parent-Led and Child-Driven Services (PDF - 1,383 KB)
North American Council on Adoptable Children (2010)
Provides a toolkit to help adoptive and guardianship parents, adoption professionals, community providers, legislators, and others work toward establishing effective, equitable, and universal post–permanency support programs.
Continuum of Child Welfare Services to Promote Permanence for Children (PDF - 2,047 KB)
Rosman & Johnson (2010)
National Council For Adoption
Presents National Council For Adoption's philosophy and a reference guide when implementing policies and practices concerning the continuum of child welfare and support services as provided to children and families in need of social services, either domestically or internationally.
Lean on Me–Partners in Adoption: Final Report: 9/30/2003-9/30/2008
New Jersey Department of Human Services, Division of Youth and Family Services
View Abstract and Document
Describes the activities and outcomes of a project to develop effective service models to support families at either end of the adoption spectrum and provide family-enhancing support services that emphasized hands-on approaches to actively encourage child adoption.