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September 2013Vol. 14, No. 7Authentic Child and Family Engagement

The Alliance for Children and Families recently published a report highlighting the strengths of a child and family engagement values system in which "engagement" is geared toward empowering families to share responsibility for child safety, permanency, and well-being. The report notes that, while the child welfare field has made positive changes in recent decades by moving toward emphasizing kinship care and family-centered practice, these approaches can achieve long-term results only when they are embraced by every aspect of system policy, organizational culture, and day-to-day practice.

The paper outlines five practices that must be in place in order for an organization to successfully foster a culture of authentic child and family engagement. These are as follows:

  • Each child must feel and be safe, experience permanency in all aspects of their lives, and have a sense of consistency and belonging.
  • Children must be involved in defining family on their own terms.
  • Children and families must feel listened to, respected, and included in all parts of decision-making as it relates to their own development or the development of their families.
  • Priority is placed upon family search and engagement as a matter of standard policy and practice for every child unless there are clearly identified safety risks.
  • Children must recognize that their families are being respected and engaged.

The authors note that, in order to implement these tenants into standard practice, child welfare providers need to transform their organizations through leadership, staff professional development, coordination of programs and policies, and engagement in research and development by utilizing evidence-based practices promoting authentic engagement.

The report fleshes out the aforementioned issues and recommendations by:

  • Highlighting the importance of the proposed reforms
  • Showcasing examples of organizations that have successfully transformed their policy and practice to support these initiatives
  • Compiling a set of core organizational characteristics necessary to shape policy and practice around family engagement
  • Providing guidance for nonprofit human services organizations engaged in the child welfare system for furthering their leadership role in continuously improving the system

Realizing Permanency Well-Being Through Authentic Engagement, by Laura Pinsoneault, Cecilia Fiermonte, and Susan Dreyfus, is available on the Alliance for Children and Families website: