Family and Children's
22, No. 1
CFTs: One of Our Most Powerful Engagement Tools
In North Carolina it's impossible to talk about engaging families involved with child welfare without mentioning child and family team meetings (CFTs). This indispensable strategy for partnering with families is very well supported in our state. We've focused on CFTs in past issues of Practice Notes (including vol. 13, no. 1 and vol. 8, no. 2) and other publications, and an entire chapter of the state's child welfare policy manual is about them. On top of that, the Division of Social Services sponsors a number of CFT courses--one of which is mandatory for all county child welfare staff.
This emphasis makes sense, since CFTs are a mainstay of how we work with families. A CFT must occur within 30 days of a CPS case decision requiring involuntary services, and at many other points during the life of the case.
Emphasizing CFTs also makes sense because, as often as they happen, we can't take them for granted. North Carolina has a clear model for conducting these meetings, but like case plans--and like the families we work with--each CFT is unique. "Cookie-cutter" CFTs will not lead to the outcomes needed for families.
For this reason we'd like to offer two reminders. Below is a reminder of what families want from CFTs. Below that is a reminder about the Center for Family and Community Engagement, a wonderful organization that would love to help you and your agency make your CFTs as engaging and successful as possible.
In focus groups North Carolina family members have said they want the following in connection with child and family team meetings.
Before the Meeting:
- Give me a chance to share my story
- Help me find my informal supports so they can come to the meeting
- Educate yourself about my child's illnesses or my situation, don't just say you don't know
- No surprises--make sure I know beforehand what we will be talking about at my meeting
- If it's about me, don't have the meeting unless I can come
- Work with me to set up a time that I can be present at the meeting; be sensitive to my needs
- Recognize my feelings (e.g., angry, scared, etc.)
- Help me understand my options and how the CFT works
- Listen to what I am saying and explore why I am saying it
- At the Meeting
- Allow me to introduce myself to the team
- Talk to me, not about me
- Monitor your tone of voice
- Call me by my name, not "mom," "dad," or "the youth"
- Be sure I have someone at the CFT I feel will support me
- Use words I can understand
- Use humor to make me feel safe
- Give me a chance to share my story
- Help me to meet my immediate needs first (e.g., housing, transportation, child care, food, utilities)
- Remind me of my family's strengths and build on them
- Ask me how my situation looks in my child and family's life
- Provide services where needed, not just mandated services--don't waste my time on services that will not help my family
- Know what the family has to do in all of the agency plans so we can come up with one plan
- Listen to my needs and my family's needs
- Use visual prompts so I can follow better
- Tell the truth
- Let me explain why I behave the way I do
- Let us speak more
- Be open to our questions and opinions
- Make the meeting more active and fun
- Everyone who says they'll attend must be at the meeting
- Speak to the me and my child like we are a part of the solution, not like we are the problem
- Ask for information--don't assume you know the answers
- Respect me and know that I am doing what I know to do
- After the Meeting
- Respect my confidentiality--don't talk about me to others
- Let me call meetings when I feel I need to
- All team members need to be held accountable, not just the parents
Source: NCSOC, 2007
The Center for Family and Community Engagement (CFFACE) at NC State University offers the following to support county DSS agencies around the use of CFTs:
- Training. The Center delivers a variety of in-person and online CFT courses, including several that are available on-demand.
- Technical Assistance and Learning Support (TALS). The Center is available to provide activities tailored to meet the specific learning needs of your county and to support what you learn in the classroom. TALS can help you develop a training plan and acquaint your agency with the benefits of CFTs.
For more about CFFACE, visit https://cfface.chass.ncsu.edu or contact the Center's project coordinator, Erin Omba (firstname.lastname@example.org; 919/513-2339).
References for this and other articles in this issue