Family Finding and Engagement (FFE) Toolkit

The Family Finding and Engagement (FFE) implementation toolkit provides important information, documents, and materials about searching for and locating family members and other adults who will and who can serve as long-term and permanent connections to children.


An implementation toolkit details the process of putting a new practice, program, or intervention into action in a county or organization. It is a set of practical tools, which can be used together or separately, to help implementers systematically execute and evaluate the new practice, program, or intervention. Toolkits can be tailored to meet stakeholder needs based on the parameters of their projects.

What You Will Find in This Toolkit

Each link in the menu box connects you to an overview with a description of what you’ll find in that section. As you navigate the toolkit, you’ll find:

  • background information;
  • an explanation of why the new practice, program, or intervention is needed;
  • information about the target population;
  • important definitions and descriptions;
  • assessment tools;
  • planning tools to help with execution;
  • suggestions for an approach to evaluation; and
  • tangible resources.

When possible, suggestions for implementation from start to finish are provided.

Why Family Finding and Engagement (FFE) Is Important

Early search and engagement efforts may reveal that family members (including fathers and paternal family members) can be safe and nurturing resources for children, thus preventing out-of-home placement at outset or decreasing the length of time in placement. FFE is also important because of its goals to:

  • build a critical network of support immediately;
  • eliminate the need for children to come into care;
  • reduce children’s length of stay in care; and
  • keep children connected to those who love them. 

Research shows and tells us that attachment and family connections are critical to the overall success and well-being of children and adults. 

The Child Welfare Information Gateway also lists The Benefits of Family Engagement. 

The practice of FFE supports the realization of permanency by ensuring that all children have stable and nurturing formal and informal relationships with adults that endure over time.

How Family Finding and Engagement Can Benefit Me, My County, or My Organization

Family Finding and Engagement (FFE) provides an opportunity to collaborate in new ways for:

  • social workers,
  • caregivers,
  • juvenile courts,
  • attorneys,
  • service providers,
  • community partners,
  • CASA, and
  • youth.

We hope this new way of working together will lead to better outcomes for children in foster care. 

As we implement FFE, social workers and other human services staff will acquire new knowledge and learn new skills to do their jobs. You, we hope, will have support to develop permanent connections with related or non-related adults. 

Leaders in counties or organizations can support practice by providing the guidance, endorsement, and tangible tools necessary for implementation. 

FFE can be evaluated to discern if the new/different way of practice, in fact, improved outcomes for youth in foster care. 

Where to Start

This toolkit provides information using two assumptions about Fostering Connections to Success:

ASSUMPTION #1—Toolkit users are trying to learn about Family Finding and Engagement (FFE) in their county or region and don't know where to start, what to do, or who to ask, OR

ASSUMPTION #2—Toolkit users may have implemented some or all components of an FFE initiative and need help with organizing specific components or pieces of their work.

This toolkit can be useful in both of these situations. For users who don't know where to start, the Stages of Implementation provides suggestions from beginning to end, using the five (5) stages of implementation as a guide. Although not exhaustive, the document provides a few case examples as well.

If users want to choose the tools individually, they can select specific tools located in the following categories:

Definitional Tools—Definitional Tools describe the problem that the county or organization is trying to solve. They explain the logic and theory used in making a decision about a practice, program, or intervention. They define the practice, program, or intervention in ways that are concise and easily understandable and can be executed by using the tools that have been provided in the toolkit. They articulate the benefits for their target population. 

Engagement and Communication Tools—Engagement and Communication Tools provide leaders with materials for communicating to stakeholders about the practice, program, or intervention. They might include informational statistics about the issue to be addressed, the vision for implementation, and promotional or advertisement items. Engagement and Communication Tools are used to send a message to staff and others about the future direction of the county or organization related to the new practice, program, or intervention. The tools can be downloaded to lead focused discussions for a variety of audiences. 

Assessment and PlanningTools—Assessment and Planning Tools guide information-gathering from quantitative and qualitative sources. They assist in determining whether your county or organization is ready for the new practice, program, or intervention. The assessment tools contained in specific toolkits may be different depending on the practice. They can be tailored so that they meet county or organizational assessment needs. Planning tools help implementers put their county or organizational goals into achievable, sequential action steps that enable measurement of progress toward full implementation.

Training/Coaching and TOL Tools—Training is one of the links between policy and practice. Training tools are helpful in teaching policies and procedures, imparting values and principles, modeling awareness, and conveying steps for implementation. The tools in this section can be used in transfer of knowledge and skills from the classroom to the field.

Evaluation Tools—Evaluation Tools provide a framework for consideration in a county or organization, provide suggestions on how to extract or export data, and assist the county in knowing that other reports can be used to get results for their implementation efforts. The goal is to increase the fidelity of evaluation efforts by providing assistance in the form of the materials in this section. 

Policies and Procedures Tools—These tools describe policies and procedures recommended or required for successful implementation of the initiative, program, or intervention. They are a set of documents that describe an organization’s policies/rules for operation and/or practice and the procedures necessary to fulfill those policies.

Fiscal and Funding Tools—In times of scarcity, finding money to fund new projects may be difficult because organizations are already taxed, and managers have to operate with stricter budget requirements and limits. This is particularly true for the child welfare system; the same or similar level of productivity is expected with less resource allocations. Potential funding sources may be available for your practice, program, or intervention. Potential funding sources may be available for your practice, program, or intervention.  Sometimes, people have been able to secure funding in creative ways.