Big Plans for Collaborative Family Engagement Year 4

The biological mother of a 16-year-old girl whose rights were previously terminated has been found and engaged, and has been reconnected with her child. They just had their fourth CFE family meeting, and thanks to the efforts of all involved, they are moving towards the teen going home with mom

Two siblings, a 6-year-old girl and a 4-year-old boy, have been reconnected with a previous teacher who is very motivated to adopt. The children’s relationship with their teacher picked up right where it left off, as though no time had passed. Since all of the parties are in agreement and many forever connections were made during the CFE process, CFE was successfully closed even though the CPS case continues.

Another case had the CFE team searching for supports for the mother of a child in care because most of the mom’s support network were triggers for her. Through CFE, the mom has been reconnected with family that she had lost touch with. These family members are very supportive of her and her current situation – helping her stay focused on her plan of service and maintain sobriety for the first time in years.

These three stories – all true – are accounts of Texas CASA’s transformative Collaborative Family Engagement (CFE) approach in action.

Studies have found that one of the strongest indicators for child well-being is the number of committed adults in a child’s life. CFE is an innovative Family Finding partnership between CASA and CPS that is built around the fact that children have many blood relatives and other important connections that can be identified and located, and engaged with – providing children and families with a dedicated support system that is meant to last even after CASA and CPS involvement ends.

CFE is getting all the parties to the table, and creating and strengthening connections who are not “professionals,” said Justin Rossner, Conservatorship (CVS) Supervisor for Hood, Somervell and Erath Counties. Connections from CFE authentically commit to be a support system for children and families, helping to give children as normal of a life as possible.

“[CFE] is a collection of ideas, responsibilities and tactics for all of us to utilize in order to ensure better outcomes, better relationships and a solid network for our children,” Rossner said. “All of our CFE cases engage the whole team working towards a common goal, and everyone can take part in the ‘something extra’ or ‘something special’ that these special cases really need.”

Fiscal Year 2019, CFE year four, is set to be another jam-packed and exciting year. Firstly, Texas CASA is pleased to announce that we are adding 11 new CFE sites. This means that we will be working with a total of 31 CASA programs and their local CPS to implement CFE, build supportive connections and create brighter futures for children and youth in the child welfare system. This represents about 44 percent of the statewide network of local CASA programs – we’ve come a long way since CFE began with three sites in FY 2016!

The newly added CFE programs for FY 2019 are:

Bluebonnet CASA

Child Advocates, Inc.

CASA of South Texas

Children’s Advocacy Center of Tom Green County, Inc.

CASA of the Permian Basin Area, Inc.

Dallas CASA

CASA of the Pines

Gulf Coast CASA

CASA of Wise and Jack Counties

Lone Star CASA

Child Advocates CASA of Red River

In addition to Texas CASA CFE Manager Candice Dosman, the five CFE Coaches – Leslie Cocke; Catherine Dooley, LMSW; Maria McCord; Anna McDonnell and Nancy Murdoch – will be continuing their work this year supporting the now-31 CFE programs.

Texas CASA will be offering a complete CFE training package, which will be launched this fall: a manual, e-learning and one-day in-person training. This package will be for all new sites coming in, and programs already involved will receive access to the manual and e-learning. In-person trainings for the 11 new sites will take place in October and November. In addition, Dosman and the CFE Coaches have been asked to present at the Texas Child Care Administrators Conference in October, which will be a great opportunity to share about this work with child placing agencies, providers and other stakeholders.

Texas CASA is also planning an inaugural CFE learning and network event for March 2019. The CFE Symposium will feature renowned speakers and permanency experts Kevin Campbell and Gina Samuels. CASA and CPS involved with CFE will be receiving more information on the Symposium in the near future.

CASA and child welfare network members interested in learning more about CFE, the importance of connection and engagement, and the need for support systems should be sure to join us for the 2018 Texas CASA Conference: Tune In To CASA, as a number of sessions will focus on CFE and related topics.

Please stay tuned for more information on Texas CASA’s plans for CFE year four as this innovative and transformative approach continues to spread across the state!