Strengths-Based Engagement with Families

In working with individuals and families, following a strengths-based approach is a best practice, and it is contrasted with a traditional problem-solving strategy. Following some of Kirst-Ashman and Hull’s (2015) strategies, we can both understand the conventional problem-solving approach and a strength-based approach to solving problems.

To implement a strengths-based approach, there are some strategies that can be helpful. These include building on family strengths, working collaboratively, helping the family formulate a vision, boosting participation and involvement, utilizing environmental modification, and modeling high expectations.

Kruzich et al. (2003) reported families identified the following barriers as impeding involvement in their child’s care:

  • Distance from service providers
  • Caregiver’s work schedule
  • Cost of transportation
  • Lack of access to transportation
  • Child care arrangements
  • Cost of child care
  • Lack of communication between staff from different programs or agencies
  • Lack of open communication
  • Lack of opportunity or encouragement to participate in the child’s treatment
  • Inflexible visiting and meeting schedules
  • Lack of clarity about whom to contact with questions and concerns
  • Negative staff attitudes about the family
  • Restrictive policies
  • Lack of consideration for cultural values

They on to describe some strategies for supporting engagement with families:

  • Provision of a contact person
  • Notification of caregiver when something was wrong or if there were health or other concerns about the child
  • Flexible scheduling of meetings
  • Information about rights and grievance procedures
  • Comfortable and private space for meetings
  • Prompt return of phone calls
  • Inclusion of caregiver’s comments in the child’s records
  • Support for transitions into or out of services or programs
  • Communication with all relevant family members
  • Help with transportation costs
  • Help with telephone costs
  • Assistance with child care costs
  • Caregiver treated with dignity and respect
  • Caregiver made to feel that his or her participation was important
  • Caregiver made to feel welcome
  • All family members encouraged to participate
  • Responsiveness to the family’s cultural values


Kirst-Ashman, K. K., & Hull, Jr., G. H. (2015). Understanding Generalist Practice (Seventh Ed). Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.

Kruzich, J. M., Jivanjee, P., Robinson, A., & Friesen, B. J. (2003). Family Caregivers’ Perceptions of Barriers to and Supports of Participation in Their Children’s Out-of-Home Treatment. Psychiatric Services, 54(11), 1513-1518.