How to Improve Family Engagement in Social Services

By Caretivity

Caretivity helps social workers stay connected so they can provide better care to their clients. 

June 22, 2020

Do you want to see your best practice strategies truly achieve their intended goals?

Want to see that children are safe and in stable families that demonstrate their well-being?

Want to see your CFSR scores improve?

Then stop doing the same thing and expecting a new result. Do something different.

The #1 Indicator for Better Outcomes

To get better results, you must prioritize true parent engagement. Parent engagement is not demonstrated by a signature on a document generated by a system. Successful engagement occurs when we focus on the unique nuances of a family and how we can support change, while creating a sense of hope and promoting parents’ confidence to be at their best.

Better parent engagement leads to improved family preservation, increased family buy-in, enhanced and more targeted decision-making, and improved quality of visits.

When parents and families feel like they have the opportunity to be part of the team and decision-making processes, whether it be in the child welfare, behavioral health, juvenile justice, or education systems, they are more motivated to take action and improve the lives of their children and themselves.

But as many social workers know, engaging families is often difficult because families feel hesitant to engage. To solve this problem, we need to identify and address why parents and families feel this way.

Why Families Refuse to Engage

For many clients, receiving services is complicated, confusing, frustrating, scary, and even embarrassing.

Many parents have described their involvement with a counselor, caseworker, or judge as dehumanizing and powerless. They feel as if these people are against them, working together to find reasons why they are unfit to be a parent.

These clients then become guarded and untrusting. As they struggle with the trauma that led to the current situation, more is then demanded of them from these people in authority.

It can be stressful for a parent to meet with people who they feel are working against them, for them to feel like they need to answer every question perfectly on the spot, and for them to go through this process in the office or agency to begin with.

As humans, our natural defense mechanisms lead us to disengage from stressful situations. Unfortunately, this response is the exact opposite of how we want our clients to act. Disengagement will only lead to more drawn-out processes and keep them in this stressful situation longer.

So how do we break parents out of this catch-22?

Do you want great parent engagement? Learn how to easily implement these tips by leaving your email below.

How to Overcome Parent Disengagement

To overcome this disengagement, we need to solve the stressors. We need to:

  • Help parents learn to trust their team
  • Help parents communicate more openly and often

Learning to Trust Their Team by Adding People to the Conversation

We need to help parents understand that their team exists to help them overcome challenges, not find reasons why those challenges make them an unfit parent.

To help them understand, we should engage relationship-based practice efforts, which emphasize building relationships and accomplishing goals, together and in real time.

It takes time, and time is a luxury most caseworkers do not have. Therefore, we need to expand the supports and collaborate more, centered on the perspective of the parent.

Often, we forget that many of our families have been in survival mode for a long time. The standard list of referrals and cookie-cutter services may not necessarily be what they need.

They need a trusted relationship with a peer, mentor, friend, or family member. With these supports, they’re empowered to try new things, they feel like someone will fight for them, and team interactions become a positive experience.

Even when a parent or client tries to accomplish the simplest of tasks, like confirming transportation to an appointment, the collaboration of their support network immediately offers encouragement and positivity.

Even further, the parent or client would then feel comfortable proactively sharing with the team how they independently accomplished a task—perhaps a task that was meaningful to them and their family.

Often all it takes is one person to start a dialogue, and it will continue to flow without much effort.

Communicating More Openly & Often through Technology

As we previously mentioned, being put on the spot can feel stressful and intimidating. Parents may feel like they shouldn’t say too much, or they may not have the time to think through everything they want to say or say it in a way that is most effective.

Communication technology increases the number of opportunities for the team to raise issues, ask questions, and receive answers without the need to schedule a meeting or get everyone together physically. It lets teams communicate whenever they want.

And parents have the flexibility to think through their questions, answer from places where they feel the most comfortable, and let their guard down.

Relaxed, thought-out communication helps parents reflect on their situation and provide open and honest feedback to the team. The team can then quickly discover and address root problems, leading to better outcomes.

Enhancing Parent Engagement with Caretivity

Caretivity is a mobile app proven to enable and strengthen communication with parents and clients involved in multiple systems.

With Caretivity, everyone on the team gathers in one place inside the app. Social workers, parents, counselors, mentors, and more bring their communication into one easy-to-follow conversation, saving them time and headache. No more lengthy email chains or playing phone tag. Everyone on the team has the insight they need to provide the best possible help they can.

Social workers and peer mentors say that parents feel more comfortable engaging with their teams after implementing Caretivity in their organization. Providers and professionals love having their team’s communication located in one place, all centered around the families they serve.

The HIPAA-compliant app is easy to implement and use by people of any technical skill level. Teams can get set up and become productive in a matter of minutes, not weeks. No training required. Learn more about how to get Caretivity for your organization.

Interested in Caretivity for your organization?

Contact us if you have questions about how Caretivity can help your team or organization better collaborate and coordinate services.

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