CHANGE # 01-2009
What makes a Child and Family Team (CFT) meeting different than a case-staffing or traditional approach to planning and decision making in family support and child welfare is that it applies the principles of family-centered practice and the System of Care (SOC) values to the group decision making process.
The purpose of a Child and Family Team is to:
• Reach agreement on which identified child welfare issues will be addressed and how they will be addressed throughout the life of the case;
• Develop a service agreement that is created using the best ideas of the family, informal, and formal supports that the family believes in, the agency approves of, and also lessens risk and heightens safety for the child/youth and family;
• Plan for how all participants will take part in, support, and implement the Service Agreement developed by the team.
A CFT meeting is a way to engage and partner with all the people who surround a family and to support the family in building a support network that will eventually sustain them after the case is closed. A CFT meeting is more than a way to simply show respect or “be nice” to the family; it is a way for DSS to share responsibility for protecting children/youth with their families and the community.
It is the responsibility of the DSS social worker and/or the facilitator to assure that the ideas of the family and their natural supports will be considered with the same weight as those of the professionals in the room. If the family (and natural supports) is not given the power to make choices and put forth ideas, they may not feel respected or heard, and may find the meeting to be a waste of their time. This may also affect the extent to which the family invests in the plan that results from the meeting, potentially adversely affecting child welfare outcomes.
The definition of a Child and Family Team has been developed and adopted by the North Carolina Collaborative for Children, Youth and Families. This definition is broad, and should be used to guide the use of Child and Family Teams.
Child and Family Teams are family members and their community supports that come together to create, implement and update a plan with the child, youth and family. The plan builds on the strengths of the child, youth and family and addresses their needs, desires and dreams.
Perhaps the most important word in the above definition is the word “with.” At all times, Child and Family Teams shall be a family led, youth guided, and agency supported process. The primary focus must always be the safety and well-being of the child/ren and youth.
The use of the Child and Family Team is both a philosophy and a practice. As a philosophy, it reflects the belief that families can solve their own problems most of the time if they are provided the opportunity and support. No one knows a family’s strengths, needs and challenges better than the family. The child and family team decision making approach is also a practice in that it describes the basic method by and through which DSS seeks to serve children/youth and families. A child welfare supervisor’s participation in a CFT is an opportunity to assess the social worker’s use of family centered practice.
1. What constitutes a Child and Family Team Meeting
CFT meetings are structured, guided discussions with the family, their natural supports and other team members about family strengths, needs, and problems and the impact they have on the safety, permanence, and well-being of the family’s child/ren and youth. They share the following components:
• A clear but open-ended purpose;
• An opportunity for the family to be involved in decision-making and planning;
• Options for the family to consider and decisions for the family to make;
• The family’s involvement in the development of specific safety or permanency plans and in the development of services and supports;
• The outcome of the meeting will be reflected in the development or revision of a Family Services Agreement.
A CFT meeting shall always be tailored to the needs of the individual family with whom it is being held. Some of the things that shall be taken into account include:
• Are family members encouraged and assisted in inviting the natural supports that they feel will be helpful to developing their plan? (Note: in some cases it may be helpful to use genograms, ecomaps and other tools to assist the family in identifying these people);
• If the meeting is in regard to a youth or young adult whose biological family is minimally involved in planning, has the youth been encouraged to bring his or her natural supports to the meeting?
• Is there a clear, open-ended purpose identified and shared with all participants?
• Has the family been consulted as to time, place, opening, and/or closing customs?
• At all times, is the family treated as a partner?
• Are family members safe before, during, and after the meeting?
• If the family/youth/child are involved in other planning meetings (i.e., Individualized Education Plan, Person Centered Plan, etc.) has every effort been made to invite everyone involved so that these multiple meetings can be combined?
2. When is a meeting NOT a CFT meeting?
• When a decision or plan has already been made and there is no room for input from family and natural supports either in deciding the plan, or how to achieve the plan. Therefore we are simply asking the family to comply with a plan and services developed without their input;
• When the family and natural supports (either biological or fictive) is not present;
• When the goal of the meeting is primarily information gathering, rather than case planning, this does not serve the family; it serves the agency processes. And while these fact-finding meetings are important and useful, they are not CFT meetings, and they may hinder the family’s trust in DSS staff and services and ultimately negatively affect child welfare outcomes.
For questions or clarification on any of the policy contained in these manuals, please contact your local county office.