Health, Social, Academic, and Economic Effects
Youth engage in fewer health risk behaviors when their parents are actively involved in their lives. Such health risk behaviors include cigarette smoking,1 drinking alcohol,2 becoming pregnant,3 becoming sexually active,4 and carrying weapons.5 Youth from families with active parental involvement are also less likely to be emotionally distressed.6
In addition to avoiding health risk behaviors, family engagement can increase participation in positive health behaviors such as school-related physical activity7 and improve educational achievement, including increased attendance8 and higher grades and test scores.9,10,11
Family engagement can also be cost effective. For example, engaged parents can expect approximately $1,000 in cost-savings per student to achieve the same academic gains from school alone.12
Child Welfare Effects
Family and community engagement benefits youth and families involved in the child welfare system:13
- Enhances the helping relationship: Respecting all family members and listening to their feelings and concerns strengthens the family-caseworker relationship, increasing the likelihood for successful intervention.14
- Promotes family “buy-in”: Involving family members in the decision-making process and in developing the plans that affect them and their children, increases the likelihood that they will be invested in the plans and committed to achieving objectives and complying with treatment.15
- Expands options: Inclusion of all family members early in a case increases opportunities to explore the use of relatives for child placement or permanency options.16
- Improves the quality and focus of visits: Partnering with families strengthens the assessment process and helps caseworkers provide more appropriate services.17
- Increases placement stability: Family group decision-making can improve stability and maintaining family continuity.18
- Improves timeliness of permanency decisions: Parental involvement can lead to quicker reunification and other forms of permanency.19,20
- Builds family decision-making skills: Involving families in strength-based decision-making processes and modeling appropriate problem-solving approaches increases families’ comfort with communicating their own problem-solving strategies and exploring new strategies that may benefit themselves and their children.21
- Enhances fit between family needs and services: Working collaboratively increases the likelihood of identifying a family’s unique needs and developing relevant and culturally-appropriate service plans that address underlying needs, build on family strengths, draw from community supports, and use resources more effectively.22
Child Welfare Information Gateway: Family-Centered Practice
Child Welfare Information Gateway is a service of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Children’s Bureau, Administration for Children and Families that provides print and electronic publications, websites, databases, and online learning tools for improving child welfare practices, including resources that can be shared with families. The Family-Centered Practice section of the website addresses key elements of family-centered practices and provides overarching strategies for family-centered casework practice across child welfare service systems that focus on strengths, engage families and involve them in decision-making, advocate for improving families’ conditions, and engage communities to support families. Strategies for creating a culture of family-centered practices are also addressed.
Child Welfare Information Gateway: Family Engagement (PDF, 17 pages)
To help state child welfare managers improve family engagement across program areas, this brief from the Child Welfare Information Gateway offers information about the benefits of family engagement, ways to achieve meaningful family engagement, specific strategies that reflect family engagement, and state and local examples of family engagement strategies.
Family Engagement Inventory
The Family Engagement Inventory (FEI) is a free, interactive website designed to familiarize professionals in child welfare, juvenile justice, behavioral health, early childhood education, and education with family engagement, as defined and implemented across these fields of practice. The site aggregates knowledge in a way that helps professionals in multidisciplinary exploration of family engagement. FEI helps practitioners, managers, and system leaders understand the commonalities and differences in family engagement across the disciplines to support collaboration among the multiple systems that often work with the same families. FEI is a product of the Child Welfare Information Gateway, which is a service from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
National Center on Family Group Decision Making
The National Center on Family Group Decision Making helps build community capacity to implement high-quality, effective family group decision-making processes by sharing resources, advancing family-driven practices, creating knowledge, and building links to improve the implementation and evaluation of family group decision-making.
Promoting Parent Engagement: Improving Student Health and Academic Achievement (PDF, 3 pages)
This fact sheet from the Centers from Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Adolescent School Health provides guidance for school districts and administrators to support parent engagement in school health.
School Turnaround Learning Community
The U.S. Department of Education’s School Turnaround Learning Community provides support to state, district, and school leaders who are working to turn around the nation’s lowest-achieving schools. The website offers resources and tools that enable users to share school turnaround practices and lessons learned, including those focused on family and community engagement, to strengthen teaching and learning for all schools.
1 Storr, Ialongo, Kellam, & Anthony, 2002
2 Perry, et al., 1996
3 Resnick, et al., 1997
4 Guilamo-Ramos, et al., 2011
5 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2010
6 Resnick, et al., 1997
7 Haerens, De Bourdeaudhuij, & Maes, 2007
8 Epstein & Sheldon, 2002
9 Fan & Chen, 2001
10 Jeynes, 2003
11 Jeynes, 2007
12 Houtenville & Conway, 2008
13 Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2010
14 Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2010
15 Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2010
16 Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2010
17 Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2010
18 Merkel-Holguin, Nixon, & Burford, 2003
19 Tam & Ho, 1996
20 Merkel-Holguin, Nixon, & Burford, 2003
21 Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2010
22 Doolan, 2005