17, No. 3
Child and Family Team Meetings for Teens in Foster Care
Adapted from the Division’s MRS newsletter (vol. 3, no. 3, July 2008)
As you know, county DSS agencies in North Carolina hold child and family team meetings (CFTs) with families involved with child welfare services. The primary functions of these meetings are to engage the family and other interested parties in joint decision-making and to provide the family with support. CFTs address the family’s strengths and needs and how these affect the child’s safety, permanence, and well-being. Each meeting also results in a plan that specifies what must occur to help the family safely parent the children.
Child and family team meetings occur soon after child protective services decides to substantiate or reach a finding of “in need of services.” CFTs are used with the family throughout the life of the family’s case, even if it is unnecessary to remove the child from the home. Family-centered meetings of this type offer a host of potential benefits to families, children, and the professionals who serve them.
But what about meetings with older youth in foster care who, for whatever reason, don’t have parents or birth family members who can attend CFTs with them? How should agencies approach CFTs when the “family” in question is a single teenager, a “family of one”?
CFTs and “Solo” Teens
Youth who are a “family of one” should have CFTs that involve an objective facilitator, the youth’s chosen support persons, community providers, and agency personnel.
Agencies seeking to improve their practice in this area, especially if the adolescents in question resist or are indifferent to being involved in their own CFT, should consider taking the following steps:
Adapting the CFT Process
For instance, Jackie Brown, who in 2008 was LINKS coordinator for Catawba County DSS, described her approach this way:
Brown believes this approach helps meetings with “solo” teens go smoothly, leading to greater buy-in from the youth and other parties and, ultimately, more positive outcomes.
Holly Yaeger, who in 2008 was LINKS Coordinator for New Hanover County DSS, says that in her experience, follow-up CFT meetings are especially valuable because they reinforce supports and empower teens. In follow-up meetings, Yaeger says, “The social worker can get [teens] to work toward a goal and give the power to the teen to make a plan that works for them.”
To learn more about involving teens in CFTs, attend the ABC’s of Including Children in Child and Family Teams, which is described below.