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2002 Jordan Institute
for Families

Vol. 7, No. 4
August 2002

Cultivating a More Family-Centered Approach

Any professional can begin to provide more family-centered child welfare services, with or without the implementation of the multiple response system. Traditionally, child welfare has been child-focused. With the shift to family-centered practice, the family is intricately involved in the intervention. The belief that the best approach to protect children is to strengthen families acknowledges that there are times in the lives of families when they may encounter difficulties because of the stress of poverty, inadequate housing, substance abuse, domestic violence, mental illness, or other challenges.

To help professionals make this shift, they must understand the essential components of family-centered practice in child welfare:

  1. The family unit is the focus of attention. Family-centered practice works with the family as a collective unit, ensuring the safety and well-being of family members.

  2. Strengthening the capacity of families to function effectively is emphasized. The primary purpose of family-centered practice is to strengthen the family’s potential for carrying out their responsibilities.

  3. Families are engaged in designing all aspects of the policies, services, and program evaluation. Family-centered practitioners partner with families to use their expert knowledge throughout the decision- and goal-making processes and to provide individualized, culturally-responsive, and relevant services for each family.

  4. Families are linked with more comprehensive, diverse, and community-based networks of supports and services. Family-centered interventions help mobilize resources to maximize communication, shared planning, and collaboration among the many community and/or neighborhood systems involved with the family.

For a look at how these family-centered components are put into practice, see A Snapshot of Family-Centered Practice.