Core Principles of Family Engagement Practice
Family engagement incorporates a series of dynamic intentional interventions that work together in an integrated way to actively involve families in promoting safety, permanency and well being for children served by the child welfare system. The following five core principles should guide policy, programs, practices and services for child, youth, and families who come into contact with the child welfare system. To achieve meaningful family engagement, these interventions must work together in a dynamic way. The principles, though presented in a sequential order, do not reflect a preferential order or each principle’s respective worth or relevance. Each principle is critical and should be clearly reflected in both child welfare policy and practice.
Caseworkers’ intensive authentic engagement with children, youth and families to ensure safety, permanency and well-being.
- Demonstrating respect, genuineness, and empathy for all family members, as defined by the family.
- Active listening to each family member.
- Developing an understanding of the family’s past experiences, current situation, concerns, strengths, and potential.
- Responding to families’ concrete needs quickly.
- Clearly establishing the purpose of involvement with the family.
- Being aware of one’s own biases and prejudices about families.
- Validating the participatory role of the family in planning and making decision for their child.
- Being consistent, reliable and honest with families.
- Fully disclosing information with families.
- Honoring the culture, racial, ethnic, linguistic, and religious/spiritual backgrounds of children, youth, and families and respect difference of sexual orientation.
- Strengths-based assessment that engages children, youth and families through the lens of family strengths, capacities, cultural heritage, extended family resources. (eco-mapping, genogram, family connections chart)
- Motivational Interviewing.
- Solution focused interventions.
- Development of mutually agreed upon plans with the delivery of concrete services that families view as helpful.
- Family-centered case planning and management.
Promoting meaningful partnerships between foster and birth families as partners in promoting safety, well being and permanency for children.
- Provide ongoing professional development for foster families to assist them in understanding the issues that birth families often face and developing skills in engaging with parents and other family members.
- Provide opportunities for foster parents and birth to build a relationship over time.
- Icebreaker meetings between birth and foster families.
- Developing mentoring relationships between foster families and birth families.
- Using visitation as intentional opportunities for foster parents to model parenting and for birth parents to practice parenting skills.
Shared planning and decision making with families.
- Recognizing the importance of involving families in planning for and making decisions about their children who need protection or care.
- Embracing the value that all families are entitled to the respect of the state, and the state needs to make diligent efforts to convey respect to families who are poor, socially excluded, marginalized, or lacking power or access to resources and services.
- Actively seeking the collaboration and leadership of family members in crafting and implementing plans that support the safety, permanency and well-being of their children.
- Recognizing that families know their own histories and are able to use that information to construct thorough plans and make decisions for their children.
- Ensuring that shared decision-making is inclusive, direct and transparent.
Cross systems partners -- including courts, medical and mental health community, substance abuse and domestic violence and other key agencies -- are actively engaged as key partners in ensuring timely and seamless delivery of services to children, youth and families.
Common language with cross-systems partners regarding safety, risk, permanency and well being that is easily understood by all.
Cross systems partners’ common understanding that families are experts on their own families and need to be actively involved in planning and making decisions for their child.
Clear definition of roles and responsibilities of cross system partners in meeting families’ needs.
Case-specific discussions and decisions include cross-system partners to ensure safety, permanency and well being and the active engagement of families in achieving these goals.
- Systems of Care
- Court Collaboration Projects
- Substance Abuse and Child Welfare Projects
Creating formalized partnerships with critical stakeholder groups including birth families, family caregivers and young people to provide ongoing information and insight to improve organizational policy, procedures and practices regarding family engagement.
- Establishing critical stakeholder groups and obtaining input to improve service delivery.
- Obtaining guidance from stakeholder groups their unique perspective on services, supports and opportunities that support family engagement and promote safety, well being and permanency.
- Involvement of critical stakeholder groups throughout the Child and Family Service Review process.
- Child welfare agencies establish ongoing mechanisms to include “constituent voice”.
- Youth and birth parent advisory groups
American Humane. (n.d.) Family Group Decision Making in Child Welfare Purpose, Values and Processes. Retrieved 4/1/09 from www.americanhumane.org/fgdm.
American Humane and Casey Family Programs. (n.d.) A Breakthrough Series Collaborative on Safety and Risk Assessments Change Package. Retrieved 4/1/09
Child Welfare Information Gateway. (n.d.) Family Engagement and Involvement. Retrieved 4/6/09
National Resource Center for Foster Care and Permanency Planning and Casey Family Services. (2004). Permanence For Young People Framework. Retrieved 4/1/09