A few weeks ago, we shared the basics of Family Assessment Response (FAR) in Washington State. This week, we explain more about how our state prepared and what kinds of things we expect with implementation.
So first, how did the state prepare for FAR?
Children's Administration (CA) staff members have received specialized training in how to serve families by engaging them in community-based services and resources to help improve child safety and family functioning. They have also visited child welfare agencies where FAR has been successfully implemented in Ohio, Utah and Minnesota. These visits, along with consultation with national experts, have helped CA leaders set realistic projections about staffing needs, expected child and family outcomes, and the expected pace of change.
How will FAR change the relationship of a CA worker with the families they serve?
Family participation in FAR is voluntary. This is critical because it opens the door to a true partnership between the family and the social worker - both engaging in a mutual assessment of the family's current situation. The social worker is no longer just the person who is conducting a mandated investigation, but someone who will help their family stay together and connect them with the necessary services or concrete supports to strengthen their family.
What are the expected outcomes of FAR implementation?
Since fewer children will be taken from their homes, over the next several years, CA can expect a reduction in the number of children in out-of-home care (foster care). Avoiding out-of-home care for children who are safe at home will prevent the trauma that comes with separation from a parent. In addition, there will likely be a reduction in repeat reports of child maltreatment among these families since the root of their problems will presumably be addressed by the FAR intervention.
Social Worker Outcomes
At an organizational level, child welfare staffing levels may remain steady, and staff may be more satisfied with their work and experience longer tenure with the agency. Being a social worker is no easy feat - it's emotionally draining and often lacks any sense of reward. But if workers are able to feel like they are building stronger families, there may be increased job satisfaction and retention.
At the community level, a deeper level of partnership among faith communities, schools, non-profits and local businesses can be forged with the child welfare agency to ensure that more children are kept safely at home with their families.
For more information about FAR, visit the DSHS Children's Administration website.