Monthly Archives: April 2016

Engaging Families

The National Family Preservation Network (NFPN) provided webinar courses in March for family preservation and in-home services workers. Sheila Searfoss–an NFPN board member, trainer and clinician–generously donated the curricula.

The first session of the training focused on engaging families. Let’s take a closer look at how we can effectively engage families, beginning with the three essentials of engagement:
 Empathy: the ability to perceive and communicate accurately both the current feelings and experiences of another person and the significance of those feelings
 Respect: consider each individual and family to be a unique human being, not a case; view individuals/families as capable of determining their own fates
 Genuineness: not overemphasizing the professional role, being spontaneous but not uncontrolled or haphazard, open and nondefensive, consistent in values, words, and behavior

These essentials help the worker to establish a good working relationship with families characterized by a sense of reciprocity or mutuality, and good communication. The partnership is facilitated with parents by the worker:
 Treating parents with dignity and respect
 Building a relationship based on honesty and mutual respect
 Acknowledging the expertise parents have about their children
 Responding to parents’ stated needs
 Working in collaboration with parents to define the issues to be addressed and the decisions about possible solutions

Engagement requires effective listening. Here’s why effective listening is useful:
 It builds relationship: people feel closer to someone who cares enough to listen
 It helps the family sort out feelings and desires and may help them to begin making decisions

 It helps families feel understood so that they can be more calm and reflective
 It helps families to hear the point of view of others, including the worker
 By listening, the worker obtains more information without having to question or interrogate families
 Listening models effective communication skills

These are some excellent skills for professionals to use not only when engaging clients but also to use with their own families!

Posted by Priscilla Martens
NFPN Executive Director