• January 2014
  • Vol. 15, No. 1

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Lessons Learned for Search and Engagement

Based on their agencies' experiences locating and engaging relatives to promote family connections for youth, an Ohio workgroup offers 10 lessons to help other child welfare agencies implement and maintain effective family search and engagement (FSE) practices.

Lessons related to general FSE implementation include:

  • Agency support for FSE must come from the top down.
  • FSE should be part of standard casework practices.
  • FSE should be one of the guiding principles in new worker orientation programs.
  • Success should be measured by benchmarks that reflect connectedness at different points of time.
  • Developing and sustaining collaborative networks is an important agency resource for FSE.

Practice-oriented lessons include:

  • FSE is a process over the life of the case, not a one-time event.
  • Not all search engines are created equal.
  • Oftentimes making the first contact is the most challenging.
  • Workers must think inside the box (i.e., not forgetting about the family as an information link to extended family) as well as outside the box (i.e., being creative with search activities).
  • Consistent documentation of FSE activities is important.

In addition to specific tips related to each lesson, Ohio's FSE publication also includes success stories, sample cold call language, and information on the costs and benefits of various search engines.

The lessons learned document is a culmination of activities that began with FSE training in multiple Ohio counties in 2010. For 2 years following the training, participants convened by phone bimonthly to discuss their FSE approaches and share ideas. Family Search and Engagement Workteam members represented public children services agencies, private agencies, and the Northeast Ohio Regional Training Center.

Family Search and Engagement: Lessons Learned in Support of Ohio's Child and Family Services Review Program Improvement Plan for Purposes of Dissemination to PCSAs, compiled by Jodie Hembree, is available on the website of the Ohio Child Welfare Training Program:

http://www.ocwtp.net/PDFs/Trainer%20Resources/FSE%20Lessons%20Learned.pdf (1 MB)

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