What is Family Centered Practice?

Family centered practice is based upon the belief that the best way to meet a person’s needs is within their families and that the most effective way to ensure safety, permanency, and well-being is to provide services that engage, involve, strengthen, and support families. Family centered workers strive to preserve families and prevent out-of-home placements when this can be done safely. The family-centered model, which views families as having the capacity to make informed decisions and act on them, differs from models in which professionals make decisions alone or with only the assistance of the family.

Key components of family centered practice include:

  • Engaging with family members to understand their lives, goals, strengths, and challenges and developing a relationship between family and practitioner
  • Working with the family to set goals, strengthen capacity, and make decisions
  • Providing individualized, culturally responsive, and evidence-based interventions for each family

Family centered practice spans the community-based services continuum and is not restricted to a specific service or model. Family centered practice includes community-based services for those who may be at risk of experiencing more serious problems, intensive and focused in-home services directed at preventing family disruption, family involvement and guidance when a period of out-of-home placement is necessary, and strong family support following adoption in order to prevent subsequent disruptions and further trauma. A combination of system reforms and evidence-supported interventions will generate a more efficient, effective, and family centered system.

The National Resource Center for Family Centered Practice promotes family centered practice within organizations and across systems by contributing to the evidence base on family centered interventions and by translating research and evaluation findings into social work practice. We have more than 35 years of experience providing research, evaluation, training, and technical assistance services which promote family centered principles.