Shared Planning and Decision Making
Principle: Shared planning and decision making with families.
Family engagement in planning and decision making takes place at many levels. Many states are implementing, as a key family engagement strategy, processes that bring families together to meet with the child welfare agency, community providers and significant individuals in their lives who can support them in making the best decisions for their children. Two approaches are being used widely across the United States: Family Group Decision Making/Family Group Conferencing (FGDM) and Team Decision-making (TDM). Examples of the work of states that are using these approaches is highlighted. A number of states have developed other approaches to shared planning and decision making approaches with families -- approaches that blend the features of different models. A number of these state-specific approaches are described here.
I. Family Group Decision Making/Family Group Conferencing
Family Group Decision Making (FGDM) involves family groups in decision making about children who need protection or care and can be initiated by child welfare agencies whenever a critical decision about a child is required. In FGDM processes, a trained coordinator who is independent of the case brings together the family group and the agency personnel to create and carry out a plan to safeguard children and other family members. FGDM processes position the family group to lead decision making, and the statutory authorities agree to support family group plans that adequately address agency concerns. The statutory authorities also organize service providers from governmental and non-governmental agencies to access resources for implementing the plans. FGDM processes are not conflict-resolution approaches, therapeutic interventions or forums for ratifying professionally crafted decisions. Instead, FGDM processes actively seek the collaboration and leadership of family groups in crafting and implementing plans that support the safety, permanency and well-being of their children.
FGDM in Minnesota is lead by the Department of Human Services with a Core Advisory Team comprised of state, county and community partners. The Core Advisory Team promotes the implementation of quality family involvement strategies, improves outcomes for children and families, and supports the integration of FGDM processes as an integral part of child welfare practice. The team provides feedback and direction to FGDM program activities and initiatives for expanding FGDM strategies.
FGDM is funded through federal Title IV-B, Subpart 2 allocations. In 2000, DHS awarded funds to eight grantees to develop FGDM practices in child welfare. In 2004, 12 more FGDM grantees were added. These 20 fiscal grantees coordinate funding and services for 70 participating counties and 8 tribal social service agencies. Grantees provide an array of FGDM models based on local needs and resources. The Minnesota Child Welfare Training System (MCWTS) offers two courses on FGDM. County and tribal social service staff can access training information through the Minnesota Child Welfare Training System.
The Pennsylvania FGDM process is a strengths-based empowerment model designed to join the wider family group, including relatives, friends, community members, and others, to collectively make decisions to resolve an identified concern. FGDM in Pennsylvania is primarily based on aspects of the Family Unity Model and the Family Group Conferencing process established in New Zealand. FGDM conferences in Pennsylvania generally include extensive preparation; an opening and sharing of strengths, concerns, and resources; private family time; family presentation of the plan and plan acceptance by the referring agency; and plan implementation and monitoring. With nearly half of Pennsylvania’s sixty-seven counties actively implementing FGDM, it signals a significant shift in how families are engaged in decision making to resolve concerns. Many counties report the infusion of strength-based, family centered practice across their communities and the joining together of providers, government, families, and communities through the implementation of FGDM. Counties also report the mobilization of the innate power within families and the collaborative power of systemic partnerships.
A key component of Texas’ Family Focus Division of Child Protective Services is Family Group Decision Making. Texas uses this decision making process to mobilize the strengths of the family, community and child welfare agency to develop achievable and culturally sensitive plans to ensure child safety, well-being, and permanency. The voluntary process brings together family members, family support systems, service providers, and the community to address the future of the child and family involved with the child welfare agency. The philosophy focuses on strengths and solutions and seeks to give families more power, responsibility and accountability. Families are responsible for confronting abuse/neglect within their own families. Texas uses a variety of FGDM models, including Family Team Meetings, Family Group Conferences, and Circles of Support, each involving children, youth and families in planning and decision making at different points of agency involvement. An evaluation of Family Team Meetings will be released in the summer of 2009.
II. Team Decision Making/Family to Family
Team Decision Making (TDM), the shared planning and decision making approach used by the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Family to Family program, involves birth families and community members, along with resource families, service providers and agency staff, in all placement decisions to ensure a network of support for the child and the adults who care for them. TDM shares nearly identical underlying values with other teaming models such as family empowerment, inclusivity of participants, and a strengths/needs focus. It differs primarily in the purpose (to make a placement-related decision) and timing (it must occur prior to the decision, or in the case of emergencies, prior to the court hearing.) Several states are using TDM to engage parents, extended family members, and foster parents in planning with the agency.
Denver County and El Paso County have a history of using TDM to engage families when placement decisions must be made. Colorado has expanded the use of TDM to several additional counties. In addition, Denver County and El Paso County, as well as other counties, are expanding the current use of TDM to incorporate TDM meetings when planning with families for a child to return home and to address the post-reunification needs of families.
Two counties, Wayne and Macomb, were the first demonstration sites for Family to Family in Michigan. Each county hired a Family to Family coordinator and worked on the critical issues necessary for successful implementation, including TDM. A statewide steering committee has ensured the success and sustainability of the initiative as it is being expanded statewide.
III. State Specific Approaches
Indiana: Child and Family Team Meetings
Indiana’s Child and Family Team Meetings (CFTMs) bring together birth family members, resource parents, interested people (such as friends, neighbors, and community members) and formal resources such as child welfare, mental health, education, and other agency representatives. Participants at CFTMs recognize and affirm family strengths, assess family needs, learn what the family hopes to accomplish, find solutions to meet family needs, set reasonable and meaningful goals, develop and achieve a workable case plan for the child and family, and achieve outcomes of safety, permanency and well being of the child and family. Birth parents choose the interested people to include in the meetings. A trained facilitator leads discussions directed at the goals established by the child and family.
Iowa: Family Team Decision Making and One Family/One Plan
Iowa has formalized support for the use of Family Team Decision Making Meetings in child welfare cases. Family team meetings allow for regular monitoring of the case plan and ongoing evaluation of what is working and what is not working so that intervention strategies can be changed or modified as circumstances change. One Family/One Plan is a process that supports and is consistent with Family Team Decision Making. When families are involved with multiple systems, One Family/One Plan allows the family team to share common goals and activities and ensure that the family’s plan is coherent and in alignment – and that it makes sense to the family.
Missouri: Family Support Team Meetings
Missouri uses Family Support Team Meetings practice. Workers’ family engagement skills are strengthened through training and supervision to enhance the Family Support Team (FST) process and assist in ensuring that family members and others have a voice at the table. Missouri law (HB 1453) requires that a FST meeting be held prior to an impending placement move or immediately after a move if an FST meeting could not be held as a result of an urgent situation. Policy requires that Family Support Team Meetings be held within 24 hours, 72 hours, and 30 days after a child comes into foster care; before an impending move; and immediately after a move. The Team is convened monthly until adjudication and at a minimum of every 6 months thereafter or as needed. The Family Support Team Meeting is the setting for developing the service plan to achieve the child’s case goal. The meetings are designed to support the family in making changes to assure safety and permanency for the child.
Missouri Department of Social Services, Child Welfare Manual, Family Support Team Meetings for Intact Families:
Missouri Department of Social Services, Child Welfare Manual, Family Support Team Meeting:
Missouri Revised Statutes, Chap. 210, Section 210.76: Family support team meetings to be held, when--who may attend--form to be used:
Missouri Revised Statutes, Chap. 210, Section 210.147: Confidentiality of family support team meetings, exceptions--form developed for core commitments made at meetings:
Contact: Melody Yancey, Foster Care Manager, Melody.Yancey@dss.mo.gov
New Jersey: Family Team Meetings
New Jersey’s strength-based practice model focuses on effective engagement with families through the use of Family Team Meetings (FTM) as one strategy in engaging families on an ongoing basis. FTMs bring together parents and relatives, informal supports (such as friends, neighbors, church members and others) and formal supports (such as representatives from the school system, mental health therapists and others) in the process of addressing the issues that brought the family to the attention of the child welfare system and the strengths that the family brings to the planning and decision making process. Meetings bring together the wisdom, resources, and expertise of family and others to develop solutions to meet the family’s needs and ensure the child’s safety.
New Mexico: Family-Centered Meetings
New Mexico’s Family Centered Meetings are facilitated meetings in which Protective Services workers and supervisors meet with parents/caregivers and others for case planning and decision making. These meetings provide a formal, structured opportunity to involve parents/caregivers, children when age-appropriate, extended family members, fictive kin, service providers, and community members in agency case decisions that include the removal of a child from the family, placement decisions, reunification and other permanency planning issues. Family-Centered Meetings also are used to prevent adoption disruptions and dissolutions. Participants are selected because they are involved with the agency serving the family and/or because the parents/caregivers and/or older youth has identified them as being relevant to case planning and decision-making.
New York City: Preventive Family Team Conferencing
The New York City Administration for Children’s Services’ Office of Preventive Family Team Conferencing works with private providers of preventive services to improve positive outcomes for children and families of color by using the family team conference/team decision making approach. Preventive family team conferencing is designed to improve critical decision-making regarding children’s safety, well being and permanency by including people important to the family, key community supports, and providers with whom the family is involved. At each family team conference, the team assesses the needs of children and families, supports families in making decisions that impact themselves and their children, actively identifies and builds on strengths within the family, and helps families articulate their issues and move in the direction of self reliance.
|Additional Web-based Resources
American Human Association. (2009). FGDM Bibliography. Retrieved April 2, 2009
Barnado’s. (2002). Family group conferences: Principles and practice guidelines. Retrieved April 2, 2009
Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2009). Family Engagement and Involvement: Resources. Retrieved April 2, 2009
Child Welfare Policy and Practice Group. Family Team Conferencing. (n.d.). Retrieved April 2, 2009
National Resource Center for Permanency and Family Connections/Barinbaum, R. (2007). Information Packet: Child, Youth and Family Involvement in Case Planning. Retrieved April 2, 2009
National Resource Center for Permanency and Family Connections. (1998). Tools for Permanency: Toolbox #2: Family Group Decision Making. Retrieved April 2, 2009
Pennell, J. (n.d.). Mainstreaming Family Group Conferencing: Building and Sustaining Partnerships. Retrieved April 2, 2009
Permanency Planning Today, Spring 2009 contains the following on family engagement:
- From the Desk of the Director
- New Mexico’s Ice Breakers for Foster and Birth Parents (Reprinted from Children’s Bureau Express)
- Familyconnect Guides: Putting the Pieces of Family Visits Together
- Immigrants and Refugees: The Intersection of Migration and Child Welfare (From a Webcast Interview with Dr. Ilze Earner and Dr. Alan Dettlaff)
- Highlights from An Introduction to the Practice Model Framework (Adapted from Document by NRCOI and NRCPFC)
- Addressing Racial Disproportionality in the Child Welfare System (An Interview with Joyce James, Assistant Commissioner, Texas CPS)
- Listening to Parents (Youshell Williams, Reprinted from Rise Magazine)
- Willing to Listen (Sylvia Perez, Reprinted from Rise Magazine)
- Tidbits from the States
Adams, P., & Chandler, S. (2002). Building Partnerships to Protect Children: A Blended Model of Family Group Conferencing. Family Court Review, 40(4), 503-517.
Burford, G. (2000). Advancing innovations: Family Group Decision Making as community-centered child and family work. Protecting Children, 16(3), 4-20.
Chahine, Z. & Higgins, S. (2005). Engaging families and communities: The use of family team conferences to promote safety, permanency, and well-being in child welfare services. In G. Mallon & P. Hess (Eds.), Child welfare for the twenty-first century: A handbook of practices, policies, and programs(pp. 118-128). New York: Columbia University Press.
Christenson, B., Curran, S., DeCook, K., Maloney, S., & Merkel-Holguin, L. (2008). The intersection between differential response and family involvement approaches. Protecting Children, 23(1&2), 88-95.
Crampton, D., & Natarajan, A. (2005). Connections between group work and family meetings in child welfare practice: What can we learn from each other. Social Work with Groups, 28(1), 65-79.
GlenMaye, L., & Lewandowski, C. (2002). Teams in child welfare settings: Interprofessional and collaborative processes. The Journal of Contemporary Human Services, 83, 245-256.
Lohrbach, S. (2003). Family group decision making: A process reflecting partnership-based practice. Protecting Children, 18 (1 & 2), 12-15.
Lohrbach, S. & Sawyer, R. (2004). Creating a constructive practice: Family and professional partnership in high-risk child protection case conferences. Protecting Children, 19 (2), 26-35.
Munson, S. & Freundlich, M. (2008). Families gaining their seat at the table: Family engagement strategies in the first round of Child and Family Service Reviews and Program Improvement Plans.
Stevens, M. (2003). Reconstruction works? Constructing family perspectives of the outcomes of family group conferences. Protecting Children, 18 (1 & 2), 30-41.