• February 2015
  • Vol. 16, No. 1

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Site Visit: Family Group Decision-Making for In-Home Services

Family participation in child welfare decision-making has been a key ingredient in a project in Larimer County, CO, titled No Place Like Home (NPLH): Family Group Decision-Making (FGDM) for Children and Families Receiving In-Home Services. The project is funded by a Children's Bureau Family Connection grant cluster and is under the administrative oversight of the Larimer County Department of Human Services (DHS), in partnership with the Kempe Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Abuse and Neglect and Casey Family Programs. The NPLH project selected three sites with existing FGDM programs—Larimer County, CO; Rapid City, SD; and Dallas and Fort Worth, TX—to evaluate the effectiveness of FGDM in safely preventing children from entering or reentering foster care.

According to Larimer County NPLH staff, families are capable of making changes and decisions that protect their children; they just need the opportunity to come together in a decision-making forum and the right tools to make the changes. It is believed that by galvanizing the family group and their commitment to their children, and including their perspectives through family meetings, it is more likely that children will remain in and stay connected to their extended family systems.

The following is an illustration of one parent's experiences with a series of family meetings in Larimer County, CO, based on a telephone interview conducted in September 2014. The parent, who participated in the NPLH project, reported that her participation in the family meeting processes was life changing. She described that the open, honest communication during the preparation stage and during the actual family meetings held her accountable to her family, particularly to her children, for the changes in lifestyle necessary to have her children in the home with her. She reported that the DHS caseworker and the FGDM facilitators helped direct the planning and the decision-making process, which helped ensure that the appropriate services were in place to keep the children safe and to meet the mother's treatment needs. The family had monthly family meetings during the life of the case, which allowed for consistent monitoring of the plan and addressing any new issues that arose. The children, a teenager and a child under age 10, attended the monthly family meetings. Their participation provided them with an opportunity to share their concerns about their mother's substance abuse, the effect it had on their lives, and their hopes for her recovery from substance abuse.

Project staff reported that, at times, it was difficult to plan the meetings to ensure everyone who needed to attend could, but even if the meetings did not go smoothly, they always brought the real issues into focus. The mother reported that no one could be dishonest in the meetings because any dishonesty was confronted immediately.

The mother shared that this was not her first experience with DHS and that her children had previously lived outside of her home because of her substance abuse. She also reported that she successfully completed a treatment program, is substance free, is attending an educational program, and is living with her two children. She credits the NPLH project and the FGDM meetings with the successful outcome of her case.

The Kempe Center is currently conducting data analyses of families who received services through NPLH, looking closely at outcomes and fidelity measures. However, the findings were not available at the time of this article's publication.

For more information on this project, contact Catherine Weaver, DHS Project Coordinator, at weaverca@co.larimer.co.us.

The No Place Like Home: Family Group Decision-Making for Children and Families Receiving In-Home Services project is funded by the Children's Bureau (Award 90CF0051). This article is part of a series highlighting successful Children's Bureau grant-funded projects around the country, emerging from site visits made on behalf of the Children’s Bureau.
 

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