Family-Engagement Strategies in Child Welfare International Review: Annotated Bibliography

Introduction, Principles and Processes

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The Contexts


The Studies


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Methods of Review


Team Member Bios





Crea, T. M., Crampton, D. S., Abramson-Madden, A., & Usher, C. L. (2008).
Variability in the implementation of team decisionmaking (TDM): Scope and compliance with the Family to Family practice model.

Child and Youth Services Review, 30(11), 1221-1232.

Team decision making is a method of making child welfare placement decisions that draws from the perspectives of family members, community representatives and agency staff members to determine the best placement options for children. Drawing from evidence gathered in a process evaluation of the implementation and dynamics of team decision making approaches in three agencies, this study identifies broad patterns which could potentially be associated with the effect of team decision making on compliance with Family to Family frameworks. The three sites chosen each have different experiences of team decision making implementation: Agency A experienced uneven implementation due to changes in leadership, Agency B had enthusiastic implementation due to strong agency support and Agency C had mature implementation because of a long history of team decision making use. Using a mixture of qualitative and quantitative analytical techniques, the evaluation finds that Agency C demonstrated the most positive experiences of child placement in Family to Family settings and diversion away from care but in the absence of a counterfactual comparison, it is difficult to say how much of this is due to team decision making and how much is due to other factors.

Keywords: US; child welfare; child placement; mixed methods; practice development

Crow, G., Marsh, P., &Holton, E. (2004).
Supporting pupils, schools and families: An evaluation of the Hampshire Family Group Conferences in Education Project.

Sheffield, England: University of Sheffield and Hampshire County Council.

This report evaluates the work of the Hampshire family group conferences project, exploring its initial implementation and tracing the outcomes of a number of young people in the six to 12 months following their family group conferences. In relation to outcomes, 50 cases were included in the study. In relation to process, the report focused on 37 family group conferences. Interviews were carried out with family members and professionals, with a range of monitoring tools tracking outcomes. The report suggests the process was well-received by families, young people and professionals, with 90 percent of schools and 90 percent of family members saying they would recommend it to others. Positive outcomes for behavioral and attendance problems are identified in over half the cases, including “particularly serious” cases. The report stresses the importance of the work of the coordinator in bringing family members and professionals together in an “open and committed” partnership.

Keywords: U.K., United Kingdom, Hampshire, England, education, delivery system, child well-being, implementation stage, program evaluation, qualitative case study

Crampton, D. S., Crea, T. M., Abramson-Madden, A., & Usher, C. L. (2008).
Challenges of street-level child welfare reform and technology transfer: The case of team decisionmaking.

Families in Society, 89(4), 512-520.

Fidelity to team decision making requires the involvement of community representatives, family members and social workers in every decision that involves the removal of a child from his or her parents or change in placement, including decisions to reunify or adopt. To better understand the challenges to implementation, 74 focus groups and interviews were conducted with 180 administrators, caseworkers, community partners, supervisors and meeting facilitators at five sites where team decision making had been implemented. The authors draw on previous studies that point to worker discretion and the challenges of technology transfer to frame their understanding of challenges to implementation. Findings are categorized as challenges and strategies associated with leadership, communication and resources.

Keywords: Team Decision Making; implementation; child welfare

Duke University, Center for Child and Family Policy, Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy. (2006, June).
Multiple response system (MRS) evaluation report to the North Carolina Division of Social Services (NCDSS).

Durham, NC: Author. Retrieved December 8, 2008, from

This report concludes that overall, the multiple response system in North Carolina does not compromise the safety of children served by child welfare. Specifically, with reference to child and family teams, the multiple response system was found to be supported by carefully developed policy and training, but its delivery by the pilot counties was uneven. The study stresses the importance of child and family teams for the multiple response system: “The formation and utilization of a Child and Family Team (CFT) after case decision is at the core of MRS redesign of case planning and management” (p. 35). In a summary of their conclusions, though, they observed that “MRS pilot counties varied in the extent of implementation of this strategy as documented in the case files” (p. 6). This study identified some challenges to child and family team implementation: the reluctance of parents or caregivers to involve others in their family affairs, professionals outnumbering family as participants, and difficulties in convening meetings because of the different schedules of family, workers and community service providers. To advance child and family team practice, this report makes a series of recommendations. These include that the North Carolina Division of Social Services needs to specify “clear and measurable indicators for the full spectrum of activities for Child and Family Teams,” designate “best practice for the use of external facilitators for Child and Family Team meetings,” “develop standardized forms to document and track progress for MRS strategies, including forms for Child and Family Team meetings,” and “support the value of more training for both staff and supervisors on specific MRS strategies” (pp. 47-48).

Keywords: United States, U.S., North Carolina, child welfare, delivery system, developmental stage, program evaluation, process evaluation, qualitative data

Desmeules, G. H. (2003).
Family group conferencing: A decolonization journey for aboriginal children and families in child protection services.

Unpublished master’s thesis, Royal Roads University, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

This Canadian thesis is based on a qualitative, participatory action study which aimed to deepen and improve family group conferencing partnerships and ensure a cultural fit of the family group conferencing model for aboriginal children and families involved in the child welfare system for one tribe in British Columbia. The author directly observed one conference and facilitated another. Other methods included ongoing consultation with members of a collaborative group, a survey of four social workers, phone interviews with six conference participants, and an all-day focus group and sharing circle of 13 members. Recommendations included 1) changing the name of family group conferencing to include a more traditional circle; 2) integrating the stages of family group conferencing with healing; and 3) forming an aboriginal relations committee to develop a more culturally appropriate partnership and accommodate a matriarchal system into the family group conference model and ongoing collaborative learning.

Keywords: Canada, Alberta, indigenous, aboriginal, child welfare, process evaluation, child permanency, implementation stage

Crampton, D. (2006).
When do social workers and family members try family group decision making? A process evaluation.

International Journal of Child & Family Welfare, 9(3), 131-143.

This study describes relevant characteristics of families selected or rejected for referral to a family group decision making conference and distinguishes between families that elected to accept the referral from those that turned it down and between families that were able to arrive at a plan to keep children within the extended family and those that did not. The multiyear project was specifically designed to divert children from foster care and keep them with extended family. Five hundred ninety-three referrals received over a five-year period were coded for relevant characteristics for the child, the family, the parents and the maltreatment. Referral for a family meeting required unanimous agreement among the professionals involved. Logistical regression was used to identify case characteristics associated with the decision to refer, the decision to take up the offer of a meeting, the families that took up the offer of a meeting and the families that developed a plan. The results of the study take a step in the direction of answering the question about which families are a good fit with family meetings and in what circumstances. In this study, child welfare professionals and family members showed high independent agreement in situations where kin could be identified, in situations that involved parental substance abuse or improper parental supervision, or in situations when the child had special needs. The study sheds light on the important question of the characteristics of families and circumstances that make for a good fit with family group decision making.

Keywords: US; Michigan; child welfare; child permanency; process evaluation; quantitative data

Backe-Hansen, E. (2006)
Overview of some of the literature about family group conferencing

Overview of some of the literature about family group conferencing Oslo, Norway: NOVA (Norwegian Social Research). Ministry of Education and Research.

This overview provides a brief summary of 25 family group conference-related articles or speeches from various jurisdictions published between 1997 and 2006. The majority of articles includes primary research, but also includes several theoretical articles, one literature review and several speeches. The articles cover a range of topics, largely focused on process evaluation findings. Different uses and forms of family group conferences or group decision making are discussed, such as restorative conferencing in schools and safety conferencing for domestic violence survivors. Most of the evaluation articles include positive satisfaction of participants or positive outcomes, with the exception of a Swedish study, which found little impact of family group conferences in comparison with traditional child protection intervention.

Keywords: annotated bibliography, literature review, process evaluation, outcomes


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