Participating in a Child and Family Team: My StoryMy name is Destiny Adams and I am caring for my two younger sisters who are in foster care. Previously, I shared my story here.
What I want to reflect on today is my experience participating in a Child and Family Team (CFT) meeting. California requires that a CFT meeting be held within 60 days of a child entering foster care.
Since my two sisters came to live with me, I have attended two CFT meetings. At these meetings, we felt empowered to express our concerns and we received services to support our needs as a result.
It was important for my family and me to understand the purpose of the CFT meeting before it was convened. Our team did a great job explaining the meeting’s purpose and our individual roles. We were prepared going into the meeting and knew what to expect.
Our team included a balanced mix of family, natural supports, and agency workers. It included my sisters, our father, my older sister’s wraparound team and supervisor, her social worker and her social worker’s supervisor, a behavioral specialist, a therapist, a parent partner, a facilitator and caregiver advocate.
Everyone was very supportive and had a role to play in these meetings. For example, when my older sister got anxious, the behavioral specialist walked her outside the room and helped calm her. The wraparound team spoke to my older sister’s special needs. Having an array of expertise in the room allowed us to have a holistic discussion to support my sisters.
There were many members of our team, so it was very important to have a neutral facilitator to ensure that everyone had equal time to speak and felt empowered to do so. I didn’t feel rushed and the facilitator documented everything, which made me feel like everything we said was important.
In the meetings, disagreements arose between my father and me regarding who should care for my sisters. The facilitator did an amazing job by giving us both time to speak and even asking my sisters for their opinions. The facilitator also did a great job by asking questions to help me discuss different things I otherwise may not have remembered to mention. For example, he brought up education and I was able to speak to my sisters’ achievements since they moved in with me.
I felt confident that the social worker and the supervisor had all the information they needed to make an informed decision in developing my sisters’ case plans. In the end, they decided it was better for my sisters to be with me.
Our CFT meeting included Sylvie de Toledo, a caregiver advocate from Alliance of Relative Caregivers (ARC), a family support group. Caregiver advocates like Sylvie are very knowledgeable about the services and programs available to us, and Sylvie knew exactly what to ask and how to ask for it. When we expressed our concerns and needs, Sylvie would ask the workers if they could connect us with the appropriate resources. For example, she helped us receive funding while I completed Resource Family Approval (RFA). She connected me with organizations to help with rent and in-home support services for my family. We had no idea services like this existed until Sylvie brought them up. The presence of a caregiver advocate was so crucial to securing services for my family because the workers often did not offer something unless Sylvie prompted them to do so.
I learned from Sylvie that we had to follow up after the meeting to ensure we received the services. Sylvie kept the workers accountable after the CFT meeting ended.
CFT meetings can be a powerful forum for families in developing the case plan and getting connected to programs and services. I hope that CFT meetings for other caregivers and families will be as beneficial and empowering as it has been for us.
**I am addressing the CFTs that do not properly address issues and goals. There are plenty of good CFTs where issues are resolved promptly without problems but there are many that do not properly move the case forward.
So even though this story for all intents and purposes is supposed to tout the effectiveness and benefits of CFTs rarely does this play out. There is too little staffing for these meetings to be effectuated effectively. The first matter is that CFTs are rescheduled several times due to conflicting schedules. of caseworkers, supervisors, and or parents. There are on average 5-7 people for a CFT so making a time that works for that many people is very difficult. Take the next issue, ensuring that the case worker and their supervisor are familiar with the contents of the reports and the parents' progress. I understand that CWS is overworked with lots of cases, but having an understanding of the issues at hand. is key to keep the meeting flowing. There are several instances of people who I know that have had meetings where past issues were the center focus of the meeting rather than the parent's current progress. This needs to stop. If the parent's past issues have been addressed or are a nonissue focusing on them does no one any good. The CFT slows and goals are not met on time due to the arguing and delaying. The next matter of the formalities such as introductions should be cut if there are adults in the room. I understand if there are minors or very young children as it sets them at ease but if you take a room full of adults, it is infantilizing and demeaning. The adults want to move to the pressing matters right away and not beat around the bush.
One of the biggest delays that I have personally witnessed is the concept that CWS adheres to is the concept that "where's there smoke there's fire". Even though this is set in place for the benefit of the child, everybody has done things in their life they are not proud of. But should those issues be issues of the past with years without any issues, it is moot to fixate on those matters up during a CFT.. It is again a waste of time and resources. There have been CFTs that spent 45 minutes on a moot issue to the point where people have begged the question of why are we still talking about this, we need to move on.
Speaking of moving on, the facilitator of the CFT must be mindful of the time limits. Even if there are issues, the CFT must remain action and goal oriented. Spending hours debating the merits of the "dangers" is again a waste of time. Acknowledge the issues and talk about how to alleviate them. If the parent is doing a good job of working their case, note it and talk more about their successes. There are some parents who are really down on themselves and words of encouragement and emphasis on their strengths goes a long way. From what I've seen there are many meetings that spend a great time breaking apart the parent's flaws and little on the parent's efforts.
Please note that CFTs in my opinion are far more stressful and emotional than court. As the author has noted emotions run high and some people may need time out to gather their thoughts together. Do not use this an instance of emotion instability or mental illness. Put yourself in their shoes for minute. Let them have their minute and help them transition to the next matter on the agenda. Do not put them down for having emotions.
Juvenile Dependency and