Four Collaborative Family Engagement Sites Gather in Austin to Share Highlights & Challenges

On Sept. 12, Texas CASA’s Collaborative Family Engagement (CFE) team, DFPS, and CASA and CPS representatives from four CFE sites gathered in Austin to share highlights and challenges.

Studies have found that one of the strongest indicators for child well-being is the number of committed adults in their 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. This year, year four of CFE, Texas CASA will be working with a total of 31 CASA programs and their local CPS to implement this approach. 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 year one!

All three years of CFE implementation, as well as both urban and rural areas, were represented at the meeting. Attendees shared about their journey of CFE implementation, and the lessons learned and successes will inform continued implementation across the state.

“We hadn’t brought programs involved in CFE together like this before, so we were really excited to hear from them about their journey implementing CFE,” said CFE Manager Candice Dosman. “The four participating programs were also really excited to hear from one another.”

CASA Child Advocates of Montgomery County and their local CPS have been involved in CFE since year one, and shared a video they made, as well as some real case Biggest Unmet Needs Statements that were developed and the case updates/outcomes. Montgomery County has done CFE with the most children and youth and fully embedded it into everything they are doing.

Two second-year programs were present, one rural and one urban. CASA of Tarrant County was the first urban program involved in CFE, and have done a lot of work to integrate CFE into their pre-service training, bringing in a trauma-informed lens and focusing on CFE for youth in long-term foster care. They were also the first program to have a dedicated staff position, Melissa Markey, supporting CFE work.

CASA of Hood and Somervell Counties is small but mighty when it comes to CFE! CPS Supervisor Justin Rossner shared how he was very skeptical of CFE when it first began in his area, and now he is one of their biggest leaders and champions in the work.  CPS, CASA and OCOK have formed a true team and collaborative approach to doing CFE and they made a lot of progress in implementation in a very short time period.

Finally, we heard from CASA of Williamson County Texas who joined CFE this last fiscal year and have already surpassed their goal of serving 10 percent of their cases with CFE. Former CASA advocate and now CASA staff James Arrington is the program’s newly appointed CFE Lead and has already begun leading CFE trainings for them.

All who attended the meeting left refueled and inspired to create and cultivate more supportive connections for children and families involved in the child welfare system! Watch Montgomery County’s video below.