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What is Family Finding and Engagement?

OVERVIEW

Family Finding and Engagement (FFE) was originally developed to address the needs of children and youth who lacked important connections and who were languishing in foster care. Now, staff and partners employ FFE efforts with children of all ages, recognizing and acknowledging that ALL children deserve permanency and family connections.  


STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM

  • Children in foster care are living in homes and in situations where they don’t have permanent family connections or physical and emotional connections with other adults.
  • Children and youth who don’t feel connected to family or other adults are more likely to experience difficulty later in life. Some experience:
    • Mental health issues
    • Behavioral issues
    • Homelessness
    • Placement disruptions, including multiple placements and/or mismatch placements
    • School disruptions and failures
    • Lack of Self-sufficiency
    • Lack of permanency and support networks
    • Loss of identity
    • Feelings of groundlessness, among other things

LOGIC MODEL

One of the first things that counties and organizations can do when planning their approach to Family Finding and Engagement is to create a logic model that graphically depicts their resources, activities, and projected outcomes.  

The Family Finding and Engagement Operational Logic Model  was created in collaboration with the Administraive Office of the Courts and the American Humane Society.  The team identified problems that Family Finding and Engagement will address. However, the list identified in the logic model is not an exhaustive one.  Others may want to focus on different or similar problems related to FFE. Next, organizational activities and resources are noted. Then, implementation activities and outputs are detailed. Short-term outcomes are identified. Lastly, mid- and long-term outcomes are specified. 

Logic models may look very different depending on who created it, the target audience, the organizational task or process it focuses on, etc. However, they mostly contain the same or similar elements. When users create logic models, they may need to be edited to fit organizational needs. 

 If you need help in constructing a logic model that best fits your needs, some examples are included below:


WHAT IS FAMILY FINDING AND ENGAGEMENT?

Several advocates have definitions of Family Finding and Engagement, including:

  1. “The practice of rigorously searching for and engaging extended family members and other supportive adults to establish an enduring support network for children” (FFE Collaborative Team)
  1. “Intensive relative search and engagement techniques to identify family and other close adults for children in foster care, and to involve them in developing and carrying out a plan for the emotional and legal permanency of a child” (For more information, go to Child Trends to find the Research Brief.)
  1. “An intensive search method to find family members and other adults who would like to step in and care for children and youth in foster care who lack permanency” (For more information, go to Children’s Defense Fund.)

PRINCIPLES

The National Resource Center for Permanency and Family Connections provides a comprehensive list of  Core Principles of Family Engagement and Practice. 

STRATEGIES

The Child Welfare Information Gateway details Specific Strategies That Reflect Family Finding online and through a downloadable Family Engagement brochure. The strategies include, but are not limited to:

  • Frequent and substantive caseworker visits
  • Family Group Decision-Making
  • Motivational Interviewing
  • Collaborative Strategies
  • Father Involvement
  • Foster Family and birth family meetings

The National Resource Center for Family Centered Practice and the California Permanency for Youth Project present the following six discrete activities. They are:

  1. Setting the stage: The social worker or probation officer a team of people who the young person has identified as important to him/her.  The team may include the youth, caregivers, professionals, and others.  This “permanency team” works together to create and agree about the goals and tasks for the group. 
  2. Discovery and review of discovery: The entire team identifies names and known contact information about people and family members. The team assigns tasks and timeframe.  They also identify a feedback loop. 
  3. Engagement, to include collaborative meetings: The team creates an engagement strategy for each person who has been identified. The youth and identified family and adults are prepared about expectations and supported throughout the contact process.
  4. Exploration and planning: The team further identifies and incorporates new members as they are discovered. The team begins the process of developing a permanency plan to reflect participation of those who have been recently identified and willing to participate.
  5. Decision Making: The team evaluates considers their plan and approach to permanency. They analyze results of initial planning and consider alternative or backup plans in case original plans do not pan out.
  6. Sustaining Connections: The team’s primary permanency plan is successful and has been achieved. However, alternative plans, risk factors, resources, pros and cons are reviewed and updated to support current and future.

RESOURCES

The National Resource Center for Permanency and Family Connections created a Family Engagement Web-Based Practice Toolkit, where you can learn more about:

  • organizational self-study,
  • definitions,
  • core principles,
  • caseworker engagement,
  • birth and foster family partnerships,
  • shared planning and decision making,
  • cross systems partnerships, and
  • stakeholder involvement