Family Engagement is Discovering What the Family is Motivated For

By Stephen Phillippi, PhD, LCSW, LSUHSC- School of Public Health, Behavioral and Community Health Sciences, Institute for Public Health and Justice

Family engagement is a critical issue for all child serving agencies and one that remains on the top of many professional organization's lists in terms of what needs the greatest improvement. This includes child welfare agencies, juvenile justice programs, schools, courts, and many others. Historically, professionals have focused on the problem, which is not necessarily a bad thing. We need to understand the problem from the distinctive perspective of each person we serve in order to truly help that person in the uniqueness of their environment and personhood.

However, understanding the problem alone can land both professionals and the people we serve, squarely stuck in the past. If we are truly going to help youth and their families move forward it is much more about engaging them in their current circumstances, recognizing that we cannot change the past, and discovering what they are motivated for in order to change their future.