8, No. 2
Child and Family Team Meetings in Child
Editors Note: In this issue
of Practice Notes we use child and family team meetings and family
conferencing interchangeably as generic terms referring to family-centered meetings.
When we use the generic term family conferencing we are NOT referring to the
family group conferencing model.
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One of the most influential concepts
discussed in our field over the past decade is the notion that child welfare agencies
cannot single-handedly achieve the safety and well-being of children. Child welfare
agencies and others now widely acknowledge that, though professionals have a great deal to
contribute, the true power to solve the problems faced by families lies with families
themselves, and with the communities in which those families live.
Agencies, acting on this realization, are
striving to make their work with families more collaborative, strengths-based, and
family-centered. One of the clearest reflections of this can be found in the growing use
of a practice known sometimes as child and family team meetings and sometimes as family
conferences. These structured, facilitated meetings bring family members together so that,
with the support of professionals and community resources, they can create a plan that
ensures child safety and meets the familys needs.
A focus on family conferencing at this time
is particularly relevant. Through its Multiple Response System (MRS) effort, North
Carolina will soon ask all county departments of social services (DSSs) to make
child and family team meetings a standard part of their practice with families.
Alamance, Bladen, Buncombe, Caldwell,
Craven, Franklin, Guilford, Mecklenburg, Nash, and Transylvaniathe ten counties
participating in the pilot of the Multiple Response Systemhave already made this
transition. Because they empower families and bring people together for the benefit of
children, child and family team meetings are one of the seven core strategies of this
child welfare system reform effort.
Core Strategies of the
Multiple Response System
- Strengths-based, structured intake process
- Choice of two approaches to reports of child
abuse, neglect, or dependency
- Coordination between law enforcement agencies
and child protective services for the investigative assessment approach
- Redesign of in-home family services
- Child and family team
- Shared parenting meetings
- Collaboration between Work First and child
To assist you and your agency as you prepare
to engage in this strategy, this issue will provide an introduction to family conferences,
explore some of the research on them, and present the perspectives of people who know
firsthand the challenges and benefits of these family-centered meetings.