Promoting the Well-Being of Children and Families Involved in Child Protection

Posted by FFT on
<span id="hs_cos_wrapper_name" class="hs_cos_wrapper hs_cos_wrapper_meta_field hs_cos_wrapper_type_text" style="" data-hs-cos-general-type="meta_field" data-hs-cos-type="text" >Promoting the Well-Being of Children and Families Involved in Child Protection</span>

Effective, evidence-based services are pivotal for addressing the underlying factors that may lead to child maltreatment. Well-tested and proven strategies that support families in their community and promote family stability and well-being can ensure that children have the resources they need to thrive in their families and communities in which they live.

This blog will explore ways to address concerns that may place children at risk of harm and potentially lead to a child’s placement in foster care. Providing families with research-based, high-quality services that are consistent with their goals, values, beliefs, and cultures can help build safe, stable, and nurturing homes for children. At FFT LLC, a leading provider of evidence-based child welfare services, we exemplify a commitment to strengthening families. We continuously strive to support families through innovative methods and comprehensive support systems.

Understanding the Risk Factors 

Risk factors for involvement in child protection include issues such as substance abuse, mental health challenges, domestic violence, poverty, lack of concrete resources, parenting skills that don’t meet children’s needs and trauma. These factors can contribute to an unsafe or neglectful environment for the child and a cycle of involvement with child welfare services. 

Services and interventions play a crucial role in addressing these risk factors by providing support, education, skill-building, and resources to help families overcome challenges and provide a safe environment for their children. However, it’s important to note that these services need to be tailored to the specific needs, values, and culture of each family to be most effective.  

Parents As A Key to Safety 

Parent well-being plays a crucial role in child welfare cases, as the safety of children is often directly impacted by the actions and choices of the parents. Supporting parents is essential in ensuring the overall welfare of the child. Neglecting to do so can lead to ineffective interventions and unfavorable outcomes for the child. By focusing on effective interventions, we can work towards improved parenting, reduced child welfare recidivism, better parent-child relationships, and less harsh or disengaged parenting practices. 

Common Barriers to Family Engagement in Child Welfare Services

A significant challenge for families who are involved, or at risk of involvement, in child welfare services, lies in the reluctance of family members to engage in and remain involved in programs or interventions that can address the underlying reasons for abuse or neglect.  

For instance, a parent struggling with substance abuse may be in denial about their addiction and its impact on their child, leading to resistance towards interventions. Similarly, a parent dealing with mental health issues may fear judgment or stigma, causing them to avoid seeking help. 

This reluctance can stem from various sources, such as institutional racism, systemic oppression, fear of having their children removed, and feelings of being overwhelmed. It is important to recognize that this reluctance impacts child welfare outcomes, potentially hindering progress toward building a safe and nurturing environment for the child. 

Additionally, parents dealing with their own mental health challenges, substance use, trauma, or feelings of inadequacy may find it difficult to engage in services their children may need to meet their own health and safety needs. In some cases, research shows parents may be in denial about their child's needs or their role in addressing these needs. 

The Need for Effective Interventions 

There is a clear need for evidence-based, highly effective interventions that focus on addressing the underlying factors that place children at risk for abuse or neglect and that can prevent out-of-home placement and further involvement in the child welfare system.  

By integrating strength-based and relational approaches, interventions can work towards enhancing parenting skills, reducing the likelihood of child welfare involvement, fostering improved parent-child relationships, and promoting positive parenting practices.  

These interventions can help parents understand, without blame or shame, the impact of their actions and equip them with healthier coping and parenting strategies, leading to less harsh or disengaged parenting. This can result in a more nurturing and supportive home environment for the child. 

Some parents involved in the child welfare system have experienced past trauma, which can impact their parenting and their ability to engage in support services. Evidence-based interventions that incorporate trauma-informed care practices can create a supportive environment for these parents, enabling them to engage more fully.  

By tailoring interventions to address the underlying causes of child maltreatment, evidence-based approaches like Functional Family Therapy - Child Welfare (FFT-CW®) can help break down barriers and empower families to actively participate in their well-being journey. 

Proven Interventions that Improve Child-welfare Outcomes

Utilizing evidence-based interventions that are backed by research and tailored to the specific needs of families increases the likelihood of positive outcomes. One highly successful approach is Functional Family Therapy - Child Welfare (FFT-CW®). 

Functional Family Therapy through Child Welfare 

Functional Family Therapy - Child Welfare (FFT-CW®) is an evidence-based, specialized adaptation of FFT tailored to support family preservation. This evidence-based program offers services to young people aged 0-18 and their families who are involved or at risk of involvement in a child welfare system. 

It places a heightened emphasis on crucial elements of family preservation, including components that address the risk factors for abuse and neglect: 

  • Family Needs Assessment: FFT-CW begins with an initial assessment to determine the appropriate level of services, ensuring that the specific needs of both the youth and their caregivers are met. Families could be referred to either a therapeutic or case management model of treatment. 
  • Comprehensive Treatment Approach: FFT-CW addresses wide-ranging challenges and risk factors typical in child welfare settings, such as parenting challenges, family conflict and violence, emotional regulation issues, depression, trauma, anxiety, and substance use. 
  • Developmentally Tailored Approach: Unlike the standard FFT model that serves youth aged 11 to 18, FFT-Child Welfare caters to a broader age range, from infants to 18-year-olds. This adaptation allows FFT-CW to meet the specific needs of young people and their families across various stages of development. 

Each FFT-CW phase employs specific intervention techniques focusing on effective family communication, parenting skills, conflict management, and various coping strategies tailored to various referral issues and needs. 

Different families have different sets of circumstances. That's why FFT LLC offers individualized counseling services to fit the specific needs, strengths, values, and challenges of young people and their families. 

Tailoring FFT-CW to Meet Individual Family Needs 

To further tailor the approach to the specific needs of each family, FFT-CW® is divided into two tracks based on the risk and protective factors at the youth and parent levels. The High Risk Track in FFT-CW consists of five distinct intervention phases: Engagement, Motivation, Relational Assessment, Behavior Change, and Generalization. Each phase has its own unique goals, assessments, and intervention focus. 

  1. Engagement: The goal is to maximize the family’s initial expectation of positive change. Therapists work on building credibility with the family and relevance for services. 

  2. Motivation: The goal here is to create a context for long-term change, reducing negativity and blame and enhancing motivation. During this phase, the therapist works toward instilling hope and a positive outlook within the therapy process. The therapist focuses on reducing negativity and blame within the family by highlighting each member’s best intentions. 

  3. Relational Assessment: This phase involves a detailed assessment of family relationships to lay the groundwork for behavior changes. It’s a deep dive into understanding the dynamics of the family, focusing on relational autonomy/connectedness and relational hierarchy. 

  4. Behavior Change: The focus in this phase is on facilitating individual and interactive/relational change using various skills and techniques. The therapist works closely with the family members, teaching them new skills, setting up tasks, and reviewing progress regularly. 

  5. Generalization: The final phase aims to maintain the changes made and apply them to multiple systems, ensuring long-term positive outcomes. The therapist helps the family to apply the changes made during therapy to other areas of their life, acting as a family case manager and accessing appropriate formal and informal community resources.

The Low Risk Track in FFT-CW consists of three phases: 

  1. Engagement and Motivation: This phase focuses on engaging family members in the change process and motivating them to participate in relevant programs and services in the community.  

  2. Support and Monitoring Phase: This phase supports families as they participate in community-based programs and services to reduce risk factors and build protective factors and helps families to overcome barriers to change.  

  3. Generalization: This phase is the same as in the High-Risk Track. 

Both the high-risk and low-risk track models provide structured yet flexible approaches to change, allowing for adjustments based on the family’s progress and changing needs. 

Positive Outcomes of FFT-CW  

FFT-CW can improve outcomes for families who are involved or at risk of involvement in a child welfare system.  

Decades of research show that FFT-CW can significantly reduce the need for out-of-home placements into foster care and the length of time a family is involved in a child protection system. Research has shown that after a family participates in an FFT-CW course of treatment, they can experience the following outcomes: 

  • 33%  more likely to complete services within 12 months 
  • 23%  more likely to complete all planned treatment objectives 
  • 3.5x  less likely to have a child placed out of home 
  • 50%  less likely to have new child abuse/neglect allegations when the initial referral involved domestic violence and mental health concerns 

FFT LLC commits itself to providing innovative, evidence-based services to engage and support families. We provide training, consultation, and other services to organizations across a wide variety of settings.

Interested in bringing FFT to your community using FFPSA? Download Functional Family Therapy & Family First Prevention Services Fact Sheet 

Make a Positive Impact on Families in the Child Welfare System Today

Implement a highly recognized intervention and make a positive change in the lives you serve as they navigate the child welfare system. Learn more about how FFT LLC can support your organization in becoming an FFT-CW provider and how you can start the path to implementing FFT-CW today. 

By continuing to develop and implement effective engagement strategies, we can ensure better futures for these children and their families.  

FFT LLC is a counseling service that brings hope and transformation to at-risk youth and families. Focusing on comprehensive, short-term therapy, FFT LLC has touched the lives of over 40,000 families annually across the globe. Through clinical oversight and ongoing research, FFT LLC ensures that all its providers adhere to evidence-based practice standards, guaranteeing positive outcomes for those in need.  

Contact us for more information about our evidence-based youth and family counseling services.