To achieve our vision of a safe and positive future for all Texas children, Texas CASA has worked to stay at the forefront of emerging challenges by developing several new initiatives, including Collaborative Family Engagement (CFE). Studies have found that one of the strongest indicators for child well-being is the number of committed adults in a child’s life. In collaboration with the Department of Family & Protective Services (DFPS) and the local CASA programs, we are working to ensure that every child in foster care has the opportunity for lifelong connections. By working together, we are finding and engaging family and other committed adults to create healthy relationships and support systems.
“I’M EXCITED TO BE A PART OF THIS INITIATIVE. I ANTICIPATE THAT THIS WILL START A FUNDAMENTAL SHIFT IN HOW WE LOOK AT FAMILIES ENTERING THE SYSTEM.”
This new partnership is built around the fact that children have many blood relatives and other important connections that can be identified and located, and engaged with a case at its inception. Continue reading for more information on how this approach is creating better outcomes for youth in care.
“A CASA volunteer decided to go back and search for family members of a child who had entered foster care at age 3 and had been in care for 10 years. The volunteer tracked down a relative who had originally been denied guardianship. A special hearing was called and at 13, the child was able to get a placement with that family member and is now living in a safe home. It’s never too late for a child thanks to volunteers whose tenacity and commitment lead to finding ways for children to find lifelong connections and permanent homes.”
– Volunteer Supervisor, CASA of West Texas
Pilot Areas: 31 Programs Serving 48 Counties
Serving Nueces County
Serving Fort Bend County
Serving Montgomery County
added in FY 2017
Serving Hidalgo County
Serving Tarrant County
Serving Chambers and Liberty Counties
Serving Hood and Somervell Counties
Serving Johnson County
Serving Palo Pinto and Parker Counties
added in FY 2018
added in FY 2019
What We’ve Done
families engaged in CFE
children & youth in care engaged in CFE
INTEGRATED & TEAMING APPROACH
CFE is an integrated or embedded approach that establishes a true team between CASA and CPS to work together to complete the steps of Family Finding. This CFE team will share the Family Finding work, and every success will be a cooperative achievement. This differs from the traditional implementation model where the work and results fall to one Family Finding specialist. Open communication and collaboration is encouraged amongst the CFE team, with an emphasis on utilizing the child’s CASA volunteer. This teaming approach models the need for and goal of establishing a community of support, or network, around the children and their families.
TMC & PMC FOCUS
“I BELIEVE THE FOCUS ON ENGAGING FAMILIES WILL RESULT IN BETTER OUTCOMES FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES. HOPEFULLY MORE CHILDREN WILL GROW UP IN THEIR FAMILIES OR WILL AT LEAST MAINTAIN ONGOING CONNECTIONS WITH THEM.”
Feedback from the first year of CFE strongly identified the need for this work to be done for all children and youth in foster care, not only those in Temporary Managing Conservatorship (TMC), as was the focus in year one. CFE efforts therefore now include children and youth in Permanent Managing Conservatorship (PMC), and will continue for those in TMC. All children and youth deserve meaningful lifelong connections and permanency as soon as possible.
CFE takes the “finding” of the family much further by ensuring an authentic commitment from CASA and CPS to truly and meaningfully engage with found connections. We understand the importance of welcoming their presence in the child’s life and their continued involvement in the planning and decision making.
ONGOING COACHING & SUPPORT
All involved in CFE must complete four days of training: two days with Family Finding founder Kevin Campbell focused on an overview of the model and its foundational principles, and an additional two days focused on the specific CFE tools. Training for CFE does not end—the CFE manager is available to provide continuing coaching, consultation and feedback.
“CFE TEACHES US TO THINK OUTSIDE OF THE BOX AND WORK TO BUILD A FOREVER FAMILY FOR THE CHILD.”
Data will be collected by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin to determine whether outcomes were improved for children and youth in the child protection system. The CFE model is flexible, so having this data and learning what is working from staff on the ground will allow our practice to evolve.