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Family Assessment Response: Reaching out to support families
Each year, Minnesota counties and tribes review approximately 18,000 reports of child abuse and neglect. The majority of these reports are assigned to Family Assessment Response (FAR), a comprehensive strengths-based approach to working with families in which there is a concern of child abuse or neglect. Minnesota’s FAR program ensures children's safety and family stability by building on families’ strengths and responding to individual needs. Both children and parents get the help they need without being labeled.
Ensuring children’s safety while supporting families
Counties and tribes will continue to use traditional investigations for serious reports of child abuse and neglect. While investigations are necessary in cases where children are in imminent risk of harm, they are not necessary for many struggling families who want what is best for their children.
Family Assessment Response provides county and tribal child protection workers with the flexibility to decide how to best meet children’s and families’ needs. Extensive research has found that children are safer and families are healthier when family support services are quickly made available and targeted to specific needs.
Through the FAR program, county and tribal social workers examine child safety and maltreatment risks, but also identify family strengths and needs. This holistic approach enables social workers to better support families and refer them to the community resources they need.
Responding to families’ needs
When families lack some of life’s basic necessities, such as adequate housing, food, transportation, health care and access to safe and affordable child care, they may not be able to safely care for their children. Some families are in need to services such as counseling to address relationship concerns or child behavior issues, treatment for drug or alcohol problems, or parenting education about topics such as child development and positive discipline. Families under stress and with limited supports are at a higher risk of child abuse and neglect. FAR social workers connect families with community resources to respond to unmet needs in order to minimize stress and reduce the risk of abuse or neglect to children.
Assessing families’ strengths
Family Assessment social workers help families identify strengths to build on to keep children safe and improve families’ lives. Identifying what parents do well, such as demonstrating affection or providing a good home for their children, offers more possibilities for family well-being than documenting failures. Building on these strengths and calling in family resources, such as relatives or friends who can help solve problems or provide assistance, enables parents to raise their children in safe, healthy, nurturing environments.
Minimizing negative labeling
Family Assessment Response helps minimize negative labeling of parents involved in the child protection system. Through the program, FAR social workers help develop a partnership among families, agency staff and the community to keep children safe. No determination of abuse or neglect is made, thus eliminating the labeling of parents as abusive or neglectful. Families and social workers often consider this a more effective and empowering way to address child protection concerns.
Counties and tribes have the choice of using Family Assessment Response or following the more traditional investigative approach when responding to abuse and neglect reports. When a child is at a serious and immediate risk of harm, agencies would not offer the Family Assessment Response.
Although there are times when child protection services are needed to keep children safe and to support and strengthen families, in most cases government intervention is not necessary over the long term. Family Assessment social workers help to link struggling and isolated families with their communities, including schools, neighborhood centers, churches, food shelves, daycare centers, neighbors, extended family and community social service agencies. This helps to decrease family isolation, which leads to greater safety for children. Communities also become stronger by ensuring they are connected with all families, including those who are struggling.
Meeting children’s and families’ needs
The Family Assessment Response program is successful because it:
For more information, please call the Minnesota Department of Human Services Family Assessment Response Program at 651-431-4701 or see our Web site at Children’s Services Home Page.
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