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Vol. 8, No. 2
March 2003

Child and Family Team Meetings in Child Welfare

Editor’s 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 family’s 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 (DSS’s) 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 Transylvania—the ten counties participating in the pilot of the Multiple Response System—have 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

  1. Strengths-based, structured intake process
  2. Choice of two approaches to reports of child abuse, neglect, or dependency
  3. Coordination between law enforcement agencies and child protective services for the investigative assessment approach
  4. Redesign of in-home family services
  5. Child and family team meetings
  6. Shared parenting meetings
  7. Collaboration between Work First and child welfare programs

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.


Child and Family Team Meetings in North Carolina
Structural Overview of a Child and Family Team Meeting
Child and Family Team Meetings and MRS
Child and Family Team Meeting Models Used in North Carolina
Tips for Implementing Successful Child and Family Team Meetings
References for this Issue
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