The Core Components of Concurrent Planning
Component #3: Family Search and Engagement

Early determination of paternity and family finding activities (including both maternal and paternal relatives) to identify possible resource families among the child’s relatives. The Family Finding model has primarily been used as a strategy for permanence, particularly for youth in long-term care who are close to aging out of the foster care system. Child welfare workers are now turning to this model as a useful tool to identify a permanent placement option at the front end of a child’s entry into the child welfare system. (Reaching Out: Current Issues for Child Welfare Practice in Rural Communities, Northern California Training Academy, Spring/Summer 2009)

The following six step approach to Family Finding has been outlined in Six Steps to Find a Family: A Practice Guide to Family Search and Engagment (FSE):

  • Setting the Stage
    The goal of this step is for the child, youth, family, supervisor, caregivers and professionals to gain a clear understanding of the Family Search and Engagment (FSE) process and how safely and successfully support these activities.

  • Discovery
    Knowledge of a large pool of family members and significant adults, some of whom will establish connections and join the tram to assist and support the child’s and youth’s quest for permanency.

  • Engagement
  • Those who have an inherent, or historic, connection to the child and/or youth share information about them, are cleared on safety as needed, begin to establish a connection with the child and/or youth, and, if they are not already on the team, join the team.

  • Exploration and Planning
    A functioning team composed of the child, youth, family, and professionals, and important others explores options and takes responsibility for finding permanency for the child and/or youth.

  • Decision Making and Evaluation
    The team, including child, youth and social worker, develops an individualized plan for legal and emotional permanency, a timeline for completion, a process for ongoing monitoring of progress, and a contingency plan.

  • Sustaining the Relationship(s)
    Resources have been organized to maintain permanency.



Relative Search & Placements
Practice tips for caseworkers.


Relative Search Best Practice Guide
The Minnesota Department of Human Services created this guide to assist social service agencies in performing relative searches when a child is removed from the home. Benefits of relative placement, cultural considerations in identifying and finding relatives, and the supervisor's role in supporting relative search efforts are discussed. Examples of how different agencies in the United States have developed systems to successfully identify and locate relatives are provided.


Practice Guide for Locating and Involving Non-Custodial Parents, Alleged Fathers, and Relatives
Wisconsin law requires that when children are placed in out-of-home care, placement with a relative must be considered, and, if a child is not placed with a relative, the reason(s) for nonplacement must be documented in the permanency plan. When a child is being removed from his or her home, caseworkers have a responsibility to search out and locate relatives and make attempts to involve them in the child's life either as a placement or as a resource and potential future placement. This policy provides minimum standards, guidance, and tools which will assist agencies in identifying, locating, and involving non-custodial parents, alleged fathers, and relatives as resources for children, especially children who have been removed from their home.

Other Assessment Resources

Family Search & Engagement: A Comprehensive Practice Guide (2008)
Family Search & Engagement (FSE) is a set of practices designed to locate, engage, connect, and support family resources for youth. A major goal of this practice is to move youth from a place where they don’t hear “I love you” to a place where they can hear it and feel it everyday. This comes from family, relatives, and others who love them. Frequently, although not always, these youth are involved in the child welfare system, have experienced multiple placements with non-relatives, and have lost contact with their extended family members. This manual is intended to support the implementation of these complex practices by providing both an identification of the issues and activities involved and a variety of practical tools to assist the practitioner in the day-to-day work. It is the product of a collaborative process among agencies, practitioners, family members, and youth who have experienced
the practice.

Child Focus. (2007). Making Relative Search Happen: A Guide to Finding and Engaging Relatives at Every Stage of the Child Welfare Process.
Provides practical approaches to identifying and involving relatives and to overcoming challenges to expanding relative connections at the policy, agency, and worker levels.