IV. D-6. Family Team Meetings

Effective 8/10/05

Top  Previous  Next

 

PHILOSOPHY:

We have committed to engage and partner with families in developing plans for the safety, permanency, and well-being of children. This begins with the first knock on the door in the assessment process and continues to the final resolution of case involvement. It is the responsibility of Child and Family Services to support families and to unite family and community resources into a Family Team. The teams goal is to ensure a permanent home for each child that is safe and nurturing. Children and Family Services believes that the flexible model of decision-making through Family Team Meetings (FTMs) incorporates all essential aspects of our work and adapts to each of the familys necessary decisions and transition points.

 

Child safety, well-being, and permanency are the focus of team meetings.
The Family Team model operates on a strengths perspective, drawing on capabilities that the family has demonstrated in the past.
"No decision about a family without the family."
With permanency of children in mind, the family creates their Long Term Vision of what specifically life will be like for them when they reach their goals. The team partners with the family, respecting their vision, offering guidance and options to the family, and makes the familys Long Term Vision and goals a focal point at all team meetings. (While meetings will focus on specific issues, all team meetings must respect the familys Long Term Vision of safety, permanency, and well-being of for their child/ren.)
Caseworkers/FTM facilitators encourage responsibility and accountability by being straightforward with team members. For example, caseworkers share the parameters imposed by court orders, Maines Child and Family Services and Child Protection Act, the Federal Adoption and Safe Families Act, and other state or federal laws.
The Family Team model emphasizes teamwork and the importance of forming relationships to provide continuity at all transition points.
The Family Team model collaboratively guides families toward choosing team members who need to be present in order to assist them in accomplishing their goals.
Family Team Meetings are scheduled at a time and place that is convenient and accessible to the family and their team. The location is one in which safety and comfort can be created for the team.
Conflicts are a natural part of any group process. At various stages of group development, conflicts take on different forms. It is our responsibility to facilitate the Family Team toward a negotiated solution whenever such conflicts occur.

 

PURPOSE:

In accordance with our Child and Family Services Practice Model, this policy integrates Family Team Meetings into the way we do our work. It streamlines the work for teaming - preparation and meetings – into the work flow of engagement, collaborative assessment, planning, and intervention. This policy makes clear when Family Team Meetings must be held:

 

Development of initial and subsequent Family Plan (within 35 days of Report of Child Abuse or Neglect, if family is in need of Child Protective Services)
Development of initial and subsequent Child Plan
(The development of the Family Plan and Child Plan may occur during one meeting)
Prior to the removal of a child from home or after an emergency removal prior to the 14-day hearing
Before a change in case goal
Prior to recommending group/residential placement
Prior to a return home to parents or kinship care

 

This policy clarifies that when a child is in DHHS custody, birth parents, foster parents, and the child (if age twelve or over) are essential members of the Team for developing the Child Plan. The policy also makes clear that when the Indian Child Welfare Act applies to the case, the tribal representative must be invited to the Family Team Meeting. Finally, through a series of useful appendices, guidelines for the FTM process are now readily available in policy.

 

DECISION POINTS WHERE FAMILY TEAM MEETINGS MUST OCCUR

Any decision or transition point is a valid time to hold a family team meeting. CFS believes that at critical decision-making points, the Family Team Meeting process is usually the best approach to making decisions and developing plans to ensure child safety, permanency, and well-being.

 

FTMs must occur at these decision-making points:

Development of initial and subsequent Family Plan (within 35 days of Report of Child Abuse or Neglect, if family is in need of Child Protective Services)
Development of initial and subsequent Child Plan
(The development of the Family Plan and Child Plan may occur during one meeting)
Prior to the removal of a child from home or after an emergency removal prior to the 14-day hearing
Before a change in case goal
Prior to recommending group/residential placement
Prior to a return home to parents or kinship care

 

Any combination of these decisions can be accomplished at the same Family Team Meeting.

 

The caseworkers supervisor will attend critical FTMs when supervisory approval and/or support are needed.

 

(See Appendix 3 for examples of other appropriate times to hold an FTM.)

 

ELEMENTS OF THE INITIAL FAMILY TEAM MEETING PROCESS

Planning for Family Team Meetings begins with engaging the family in the preparation process of determining the purpose of the meeting, defining their Long Term Vision and the intermediate goals needed to reach their Long Term Vision, and identifying team members. All team meetings need to be related to safety, permanency, and well-being. The first team meeting should establish a general direction of safety, permanency, and well-being for the child that each participant supports. The plan to achieve permanency is clarified as the FTM process continues. The first Family Team Meeting may be held on an emergency basis to resolve a crisis.

 

If the caseworker is facilitating a meeting where preparation and planning has taken place and team members are present, then FTMs may be held in conjunction with other meetings, such as a treatment team meeting.

 

Preparation:

The purpose of preparation is to help the family and their team members to be ready to fully participate in the meeting. Preparation is an opportunity to engage the family and team members in conversation to determine the strengths, the needs, and the Long Term Vision of the family regarding safety, permanency, and well-being. Preparation is an everyday part of our work with family, collaterals, and providers. With the help and guidance of the caseworker, the family should be able to identify their vision and goals and present them at the FTM. Whenever possible, potential Family Team members need to be contacted and prepared in advance of a team meeting. When the advanced preparation of team members is not possible, the structure and content of the meeting may have to be adjusted. Special attention will be needed during the meeting to help the team to come together and participate in supporting the familys goals. Caseworkers can prepare team members in conjunction with other assessment activities.
The agenda is the road map of how to conduct the Family Team Meeting to reach the identified goals for that meeting. An agenda is recommended for each meeting in consideration of the teams needs. Agendas are intended to be flexible.
When applicable, court orders should guide the family in establishing their Long Term Vision and goals, beginning in the preparation stage.
Without a court order, the basis for Child Abuse and Neglect Assessment findings should guide the family in establishing their Long Term Vision and goals.

 

Possible participants to be invited:

oParents
oImmediate Family members
oExtended Family members
oTeen
oAttorneys/GAL/AAG
oCommunity Providers
oCaseworker
oChildrens Behavioral Health Caseworker
oSupervisor
oParents friends
oFoster parents friends
oTeens Friends
oCoaches
oTeachers
oChurch members
oCase managers
oTreatment Agency staff
oPediatricians
oBureau of Family Independence Staff

 

During preparation, a critical role of the caseworker is to help the family to see the importance of having various team members at the table. The caseworker engages and guides the family toward adding essential members to their team in order for them to be successful in reaching their goals. In order for certain members to join in the Family Team Meeting process, this effort may involve a process of facilitated pre-meetings between the family member and the proposed team member.

 

When a child is in an out-of-home placement with another family, the caseworker, parent(s), child (if appropriate), and foster family are essential members of the team.

 

When a child is in group/residential care, key placement agency staff will be invited to the meeting.

 

When the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) applies to a child in the

Departments custody, the tribal representative must be invited to all FTMs. If ICWA applies in a birth home, inviting the tribal representative will be encouraged, as the tribe can provide support for the child and family.

 

(See Appendix 4 for suggested supports for FTMs.)

 

Process of the Meeting

The meetings themselves are a way for the group to develop its strengths and cohesiveness toward supporting the family making changes to increase child safety, permanency, and well-being. The safety, permanency, and well-being goals may be broad in the beginning stages. In fact, the main focus of the first meeting may be learning how the team works together to arrive at a goal that all members agree to. The team needs to understand the familys Long Term Vision and goals, i.e., "Where are we heading?" The Long Term Vision and goals are presented by the family and developed further at the initial meeting. The Long Term Vision and goals also need to be reviewed at each subsequent meeting as the familys context for their shorter term plans.

 

Engagement is the single most important aspect of successful Family Team Meetings. We must do our best to help the team develop a caring and respectful atmosphere.
Family Team Meetings typically need to be long enough to accomplish the agenda - approximately one to two hours.
The meeting begins by welcoming the family and team members.
The facilitator and co-facilitator are identified.
The purpose of each team meeting is stated clearly.
Each participant introduces themselves and briefly reviews:
oHow they are connected to the family,
oWhat they are doing to support the family,
oA particular family strength (and example, if possible).
The Long Term Vision and goals related to safety, permanency, and well-being set by the family during the preparation process are reviewed and affirmed by the family and team members.
Confidentiality, its provisions and limitations, is reviewed and release forms are signed.
Ground rules are established and posted in all subsequent meetings.
Specific strengths of the family that they can build on to meet their goals are identified. Each time strengths are identified, the family may more easily connect to the team.
Some part of the family story is told. How much to share is discussed in the preparation stage. A rehearsal during preparation might be helpful. Consider asking, "What do team members need to know about you and your family to be able to participate today?" The family story helps the team to build empathy for the family unit.
Specific child and family needs are identified to help meet goals. These needs, if met, will help the family to reach their goals and eventually, the Long Term Vision.
A plan is developed for each specific task identified, to determine who will do what, by when. To help the family be more successful, there needs to be an additional plan of contingency to address "What could go wrong?"
The FTM facilitator checks out the process at the end of the meeting through a brief discussion: "How did we do today?" The Check out should include identification of what team members need for the next meeting.
All meetings end by reviewing the Long Term Vision and goals of the family and confirming that the plan is understood and agreed to by all team members.
The realities of permanency time frames need to be part of the process. Time frames to achieve permanency defined by State and Federal law need to be considered throughout the process.

 

(See Appendix 1 for Initial Family Team Meeting Process.)

 

 

DOCUMENTATION OF THE PREPARATION, IMPLEMENTATION, AND PLANNING FOR THE FAMILY TEAM MEETING

Family and Team Member Preparation:

Preparation interviews will be recorded in the narrative log.

 

Narrative Log Entries will be entered and labeled, "FTM-prep." It is acceptable to make one entry to capture the preparation interviews for multiple team members.

 

Entries include:

"Purpose of meeting and Familys Long Term Vision and goals" as identified by the family/focal point of the meeting.
The names, relationship, mailing address and phone numbers of team members selected by family.
A brief entry documenting the preparation conversation with family and team members.
Any new information related to the family story.

 

The Family Team Meeting:

A narrative log entry will be made to record the substance of the Family Team Meeting. Choose "FTM-Meeting" from the drop down menu. The FTM Summary and Plan will be completed in Event Tracking when there is an open case. In Event Tracking, choose the case name (primary caregiver) and create the Summary and Plan under this name, even if the primary caregiver is not the focal point of the specific Family Team Meeting.

 

When there is no open case, the Assessment Summary and Plan will be pasted into the narrative log entry to record the FTM.

 

If the child is in custody, then the initial FTM will be recorded in the Initial Child and Family Plan. The Summary and Plan will be completed if the FTM is focusing on a piece of the Child or Family Plan already documented. The Child and Family Plan or the Summary and Plan will be distributed to all team members within 10 days of the Family team Meeting.

 

The FTM Summary and Plan includes the following:

The parents names,
The child(ren)s names,
The subject of the meeting, the date of the meeting,
The MACWIS case #,
The names and relationships of those present (including any resource/observers),
A list of those invited (but not in attendance), and
The name and roles of the facilitator(s).
The familys Long Term Vision and goals statement regarding safety, permanency, and well-being of their children.
The familys identified Strengths. This list can continue to grow to assist the family in reaching their Long Term Vision and goals.
The familys identified Needs which must be met if they are to reach their Long Term Vision and goals.
The specific FTM Plan with action steps, time frames, and a list of those responsible for each action.
A record of who will document the plan and when the plan will be distributed to the team members.
The date, place, and time of the next Family Team Meeting, if needed.
Identify additional team members, if any, who should be at the next team meeting

 

(See Appendix 5 for the documentation template.)

 

SUBSEQUENT FAMILY TEAM MEETINGS:

The purpose of subsequent Family Team Meetings is to review progress toward the goals that the team developed in the prior team meeting. The family and team have an opportunity to update the team on what has changed since the last meeting. The family and team need to review the identified needs and goals of the family. The family and team will discuss and revise the goals as needed to address the safety, well-being, and permanency of children.

 

Subsequent meetings begin with "What has changed since the last meeting?" and "What is the level of safety of each child?" Each subsequent meeting has more specific outcomes for timeframes and measurement criteria (How to identify progress).

 

For all FTMs, preparation work needs to be done with each team member before subsequent meetings. The purpose of this preparation is to review the prior team meeting, determine progress toward the familys Long Term Vision, discuss the team members role in the FTM, and how they can support the family in their Long Term Vision and goals.

 

(See Appendix 2 for format of subsequent FTM.)

 

APPENDIX 1

Initial Family Team Meeting Process

 

This format is flexible and individualized for every team meeting. The purpose and desired outcomes of the meeting governs the agenda.  The items below do not constitute an agenda per se, but are presented to give an outline for guiding staff in the FTM meeting process. The order can be rearranged to suit the needs of the team or the purpose of the meeting. Preparing the agenda ahead of time will help the meeting flow.

 

Welcome & Brief Introductions:

The facilitator welcomes the team members by first having them introduce themselves and sharing their connection to the family. (e.g., I am ___ & I am mothers best friend; I am ___ & I am fathers substance abuse counselor, etc.) This is an opportunity to identify key team members who are not present. Participants may take this opportunity to discuss participation of absent team members at future FTMs.

 

Purpose:

The facilitator explains clearly why this FTM was called, what needs to be accomplished, and what participants can expect today and at subsequent meetings.

 

Confidentiality:

The facilitator explains confidentiality laws to all the participants and requests that each team member sign the confidentiality statement. The facilitator explains how the information from the FTM will be used in working with the family, including case planning, and making referrals for the family members. The facilitator will assist the family in presenting their Long Term Vision and goals for their family regarding safety, permanency, and well-being.

 

Non-Negotiables:

The caseworker and team members disclose the limitations and guidelines, such as Court Orders and legal mandate under Title 22 for decision-making in FTMs.

 

Ground Rules:

FTM ground rules are established and agreed upon by all team members. These rules are used in the initial and all subsequent meetings. Rules are set by an active discussion of all group members. The purpose of this process is to have the group take ownership for how the meeting is run and for all members to refer to if the process strays from them. If not already emphasized, this is a good time to discuss and set expectations for strength-based language and behavior. The facilitator reviews the ground rules item by item with the team to elicit group agreement before moving on. At the beginning of each subsequent meeting the team may review the ground rules, recognizing that they are often modified as the team moves forward.

 

Family Story:

The Family Story is the opportunity for the family/focal point of the meeting to share their perception of what happened in their family to cause them to be involved with Child Welfare Services without judgment or challenge. This allows all team members to understand the issues from the familys point of view and offers the team an opportunity to build empathy.

 

Strengths:

Strengths are identified by stating the behaviors, beliefs and values demonstrated by the family that can be used to assist them in addressing the identified needs. Strengths are either discussed as a separate agenda item or combined with other specific issues, depending on individual facilitation style and the flow of the FTM. Identifying strengths helps focus the groups thinking and builds the familys trust in the team members. This is a very empowering process for family members who do not have a lot of self-esteem. Identifying more specific strengths is more valuable to the family. The facilitator asks team members to be as specific as possible (e.g., in response to the statement "She loves her children," the facilitator might ask, "Can you tell us what you have observed in her day-to-day activities that lead you to come to that conclusion?")

 

Needs:

These are the underlying needs in the family that prevent the children from being safe. The familys beliefs, values and knowledge that leads to behaviors that are either protective or not. Family, with help and support from the team, identify the needs, issues, obstacles, barriers, or problems to address in order to achieve safety, permanency, and well-being for the children. The first meeting includes an honest and complete disclosure by the team of all the identified needs with the understanding that, over time, subsequent FTMs will address each of the needs, according to the priority established by the team.

 

Assignments/Next Steps:

The facilitator helps the team members identify which tasks and timeframes are assigned to each team member. Contingency plans are developed to address "What could go wrong with this plan?" This will enable the team to address predictable, potential problems. Each team member acknowledges their understanding and acceptance of the familys Long Term Vision and goals. The Team sets the date for the next FTM and identifies additional team members for future meetings before the meeting concludes.

 

Evaluation and Conclusion:

The evaluation takes place just before the end of the FTM. It is important for the group to take a few minutes to evaluate their work as a team.

 

How did we do today?

What can we do next time to improve on our process?
How well were we focused on strengths?
What do team members need for the next meeting?

 

Questions like these are important for the team to develop a sense of identity and competence. Observers might also be welcomed to participate in this phase of the meeting.

 

 

APPENDIX 2

Subsequent Family Team Meeting Process

 

The agenda and format for subsequent team meetings will be directly related to the purpose of the meeting. Depending on whether the team is developing a case or transitional plan, or trying to figure out in a case management conference what to present to the court, different structures and focus will result. The order of the agenda and format can be arranged to suit the needs of the team or purpose of the meeting.

 

Welcome & Brief Introductions:

Facilitator will welcome team members, re-introducing themselves and re-stating their role. Team members will introduce themselves and their connection to the family. (e.g., I am ___ & I am mothers best friend; I am ___ & I am fathers substance abuse counselor, etc.) (This is also an opportunity for key members who are not present to be identified. Participants may take this opportunity to discuss future participation of these members in subsequent meetings.)

 

Purpose:

Facilitator presents a clear explanation of why this meeting was called, what needs to be accomplished at this meeting and what has already been accomplished, reviews previous goals, and identifies todays goals. The familys Long Term Vision may well need to be broken into smaller, more manageable goals for the family to work towards child safety, well-being, and permanency. This is also another opportunity to refine the Long Term Vision as aspects of the case change.

 

Confidentiality:

Facilitator circulates form to be signed by new participants explaining the law regarding confidentiality, etc. It is a good idea to remind team members of the law, but this can be accomplished by simply making it a part of the ground rules phase.

 

Non-Negotiables:

Facilitator will reiterate existing non-negotiables and report any new non-negotiables based on court orders or mandates from Title 22.

 

Ground Rules:

Opportunity will be given for participants to revisit and revise the ground rules.

 

Family Story Update:        

This is an opportunity for the family to offer their story of what has happened since the previous FTM. This allows for the family to talk about their successes. This is a time for team members to report on their assignments noting the success of the family and for any developments/new needs to be identified.

 

Strengths:

In subsequent FTMs the strengths identified are often related to the accomplishments the family has made since the prior meeting. Strengths are identified by stating the behaviors, beliefs, and values demonstrated by the family that can be used to assist them in addressing the identified needs. Strengths are either discussed as a separate agenda item or combined with other specific issues, depending on individual facilitation style and the flow of the FTM. Identifying strengths helps focus the groups thinking and builds the familys trust in the team members. This is a very empowering process for family members who do not have a lot of self-esteem. Identifying more specific strengths is more valuable to the family. The facilitator asks team members to be as specific as possible (e.g., in response to the statement "She loves her children," the facilitator might ask, "Can you tell us what you have observed in her day-to-day activities that lead you to come to that conclusion?")

 

Needs:

This is where needs, issues, obstacles, barriers and problems that must be addressed in order to achieve safety, permanency, and well-being for the children are identified and discussed. New team members will be asked to add to the needs.

 

Assignments/next steps:

The facilitator helps the team members identify which tasks and time frames are assigned to each team member. Contingency plans are developed to address "What could go wrong with this plan?" This will enable the team to address predictable, potential problems. Each team member acknowledges their understanding and agreement with the familys Long Term Vision and goals.

 

Evaluation

Whether this step takes place before or after the next meeting date is set, it is important to ask the group to take a few minutes to evaluate their work as a team.

How did we do today?
What can we do next time to improve on our process?
How well were we focused on strengths?
What do team members need for the next meeting?

 

Questions like these are important for the team to develop a sense of identity and competence. Observers might also be welcomed to participate in this phase of the meeting.

The Facilitator asks the family if this was helpful and if a subsequent meeting should be scheduled.

 

Conclusion:

If there is to be a subsequent meeting the Team sets the date, time and location for the next FTM and identifies additional team members for future meetings before the meeting concludes.

 

 

APPENDIX 3

Decision Points Where Family Team Meetings May Occur

 

Because we have committed to partner with families to work toward the safety, permanency, and well-being of their children, any decision or transition point is a valid time to hold a Family Team Meeting. There will be a need for periodic team meetings for the life of the case. It is a caseworkers responsibility to call a meeting together at key decision points, but anyone on the team may identify that there is a need for a team meeting.

 

Family Team Meetings must occur at the following Decision Points:

To develop each initial and subsequent Family (within 35 days of Report of Child Abuse or Neglect, if family is in need of Child Protective Services)
To develop each initial and subsequent Child Plan

(The development of the Family Plan and Child Plan may occur during one meeting)

Prior to a removal of a child from home or after an emergency removal prior to the 14-day hearing
Before a change in case goal
Prior to recommending a placement in a group/residential placement
Prior to return home to parents or kinship care

 

Family Team Meetings may occur at the following decision points. The list below highlights some key points when a team meeting would be valuable. (Please note that this list is not all-inclusive.)

Any transition meeting from one program area to another
Creating Safety Plan
Permanent Plan
When considering alternatives to custody
Before court case management conferences (deciding what to present to judge)
When parents and placement caregiver(s) need to share information about the medical history and care of child(ren).
Visitation Plan and changes (including, siblings and kin)
Implementing Reunification Plan
Pre-placement planning (foster care as well as adoption) and choosing initial or new placement
Determining how to implement court order
Transition phases, such as "independent" living
Determining if adoption is the appropriate plan for specific child(ren)
Decisions about supports and services necessary/available for case plan implementation
Case closure
C-5 Protocol meeting
Evaluating options available for teens
Determining & selecting educational options
Treatment team meetings

 

 

APPENDIX 4

Suggested Supports for FTMs

 

Co-facilitator recommended - Co-facilitators can help manage the group and help to resolve conflict in the group. One facilitator can be the record keeper while the other is guiding the team and supporting the family.
Flip Charts/Markers - Flip charts can be used during the team meeting to provide a visual aid and to create a feeling of ownership. Information gathered on flip charts is available to the team at future meetings, but it is up to the family and team to determine how/whether the information is used. Ground rules, strengths, needs, and plans are often most helpful to post for the group.
Snacks/Food/Drink - Depending on the time of day that the meeting will occur, minimal food may be offered. Also, food helps break the ice at a new team meeting.
Poster with the teams ground rules - A visual reminder to all the team members to the agreed-upon ground rules.
Agenda - Agenda is used to help guide the process and to let everyone know what to expect in the FTM.
Designated room for FTM
White eraser board - to use as a visual aid to what is being discussed and agreed upon in the FTM.
Picture of children - to remind everyone of why they are gathered together on a team.
Videos of the children - to remind everyone of why they are gathered together on a team.
Art Projects done by children - to remind everyone of why they are gathered together on a team.
Life size tracing of the children - to remind everyone of why they are gathered together on a team.
Case aide assigned to FTM
oBuy food/beverages
oArrange location
oSend invitations to team members
oSet up child care and transportation
oTake minutes in the FTM
oType minutes of FTM following FTM Documentation Policy
oDistribute minutes to all team members within 10 days of FTM

 

 

APPENDIX 5

FTM Summary and Plan

 

CLIENTS NAME(S):

 

________________S FAMILY TEAM MEETING

 

DATE:

 

FACILITATIOR AND CO-FACILITATOR:

 

ASSIGNED CASEWORKER:

 

PRESENT: (include role or relationship to client)

 

INVITED BUT NOT ATTENDING: (include role or relationship to client)

 

GROUND RULES:

 

PURPOSE OF MEETING AND FAMILYS LONG TERM VISION AND GOALS:

 

CHILD AND FAMILY STRENGTHS:

 

WHAT DO THE CHILDREN AND/OR FAMILY NEED BEFORE THEY WILL BE ABLE TO REACH THEIR LONG TERM VISION AND GOALS?:

 

PLAN: The child Plan and /or Family Plan, if being developed during the FTM will be the documented plan. If an FTM Plan is developed as a result of the FTM, it will include: Who will do what, by when, to support how the needs will be met. Include any contingency plans for "What could go wrong?" Include who will write and distribute this plan, by when.

 

SCHEDULING OF NEXT FAMILY TEAM MEETING, IF NEEDED: