As many of you know who have followed my writings or blogs over the years, I have been very emphatic about building a strong foundation under the Family Care Network in order to effectively fulfill our mission “to enhance the wellbeing of children and families in partnership with our community.” This has included establishing seven Foundation-Principles from our beginning, that have guided our organization these past 32+ years, as well as embedding 10 Guiding Practice Principles. These have served us well in enhancing our ability to positively change lives.
Our seven Foundation-Principles are simple and to the point. 1) Stay “Mission Focus,” remembering why we exist; 2) Always do the very best for children, youth and families, and in managing the company; 3) Do everything with the highest level of integrity and excellence; 4) Be visible and accountable in everything we do; 5) Do everything through a collaborative, team-driven process; 6) Always provide the best of Customer Service, and be “customer-driven” in our decision-making process; and 7) Promote creativity, innovation and imagination. I will embellish upon these and how we actualize them in our day-to-day Family Care Network life in another article.
In the early nineties, manifesting our belief in always doing the very best for children, youth and families, we discovered and soon implemented our 10 Guiding Practice Principles. The research then, which has only been amplified over time, clearly supported these as an evidence-based approach to achieve the best outcomes for those whom we serve.
In 25+ years, these practice principles have been embedded in every program we provide, have been adopted by the County of San Luis Obispo’s child-serving departments, and last year, were established as a “mandated” Core Practice Model for all social services, behavioral health and probation departments in California. Better late than never!
The Family Care Network 10 Guiding Practice Principles are:
- Family Voice, Choice & Preference. Each family member’s perspective is intentionally elicited and prioritized during all phases of the service planning and delivery process. Staff and Team members work with our customers diligently to determine their needs, perspectives and personal preferences, and develop plans and services accordingly.
- Services are Team-Driven. Every decision made regarding a services customer is done through a Child & Family Team (CFT). CFTs consists of individuals agreed upon by the family members and committed to the families success through informal, formal, and community support and personal relationships. At times, family members’ choices about team membership may be shaped or limited by practical or legal considerations, however, the family it is always encouraged to make informed decisions about who should be part of their team.
- Natural Supports. A primary goal of effectively serving our customers is to help them develop community-based Natural Supports for success, and no longer be dependent upon the “system.” Thus, the importance of having team members familiar with the family who can help the family create a support network and connect them to other community-based support. These networks include friends, extended family, neighbors, coworkers, church members, and so on. All case plans include strategies and goals for developing Natural Supports.
- Collaboration & Integration. Team members work cooperatively and share responsibility to jointly develop, implement, monitor, and evaluate an integrated, collaborative plan. This principle recognizes that the team is more likely to be successful to accomplish its work when team members approach decisions in an open-minded manner, prepared to listen to, and be influenced by, other team members. Members must be willing to provide their own perspectives with a commitment to focus on strengths and opportunities in addressing needs, and work to ensure that others have opportunity to provide input and feel safe doing so. This is a consensus driven model.
- Community-Based. The team strives to implement service and support strategies that are accessible and available within the community where the family lives. Children, youth, and family members will receive support so that they can access the same range of activities and environments as other families, children, and youth within their community that supports their positive functioning and development.
- Culturally Respectful & Inclusive. Every customer being served has a unique cultural perspective. The planning and service process respects, and builds on their unique values, preferences - including language preferences, beliefs, culture- and identity of the family members, and their community or tribe. Culture is recognized as the wisdom, healing traditions, and transmitted values that bind people from one generation to another. Cultural humility requires acknowledgment that professional staff most often cannot meet all elements of cultural competence for all people served. Professionals must ensure that the service plan supports the achievement of goals for change and is integrated into the youth’s and family’s cultures. Cultural humility and openness to learning foster successful empowerment and better outcomes.
- Individualized. The principle of family voice, choice and preference lays the foundation for individualization and flexibility in building the plan. While formal services may provide a portion of the help and support that a family needs, plans and resources must be customized to the specific needs of the individual child, youth, and family members. Each element of the family’s service plan must be built on the unique and specific strengths, needs, and interests of family members, including the assets and resources of their community and culture. Individualization assumes there is no effective “boilerplate” one-size-fits-all approach!
- Strengths-Based. The planning and service delivery process identifies, builds upon, and enhances the capabilities, knowledge, skills, and assets of the child, youth, and family members, their tribe and community, and other team members. The team takes time to recognize and validate the skills, knowledge, insight, and strategies that the family and their team members have used to meet the challenges they have encountered in their lives - even though sometimes these strengths have been inadequate in the past. This commitment to a strengths-based orientation intends to highlight and support the achievement of outcomes not through a focus on eliminating family member’s deficits, but rather through an effort to utilize and increase their assets.
- Patience & Persistence. The team does not give up on, blame, or reject children, youth, or their families. When faced with challenges or setbacks, the team continues working towards meeting the needs of the youth and family, and towards achieving the family’s goals. Undesired behavior, events, or outcomes are not seen as evidence of youth or family “failure” but, rather, are interpreted as an indication that the plan should be revised to be more successful in achieving the positive outcomes associated with the goals. At times, this requires team commitment to repeatedly revise and implement a plan, even in the face of limited system capacity or resources.
- Outcome-Based. The goals and strategies of the case-plan are tied to observable or measurable indicators of success. The Team routinely monitors progress consistent with those indicators, and revises the service plan accordingly. This principle emphasizes that the team is accountable – to the family and all the team members, to the systems of care which serve the children, youth, and families, and to the community. Tracking progress toward outcomes and goals keeps the plan on track and indicates need for revision of strategies and interventions as necessary. It also helps the team maintain hope, cohesion, and effectiveness, and allows the family to recognize that things are, indeed, changing and progress is being made.
The Family Care Network has made a strong effort to be organized, principled, disciplined and well structured for one reason: to positively change lives. We value the children, youth and families we serve and will continue to make every effort to help them achieve their goals and dreams!
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