PARTNERS FOR CREATIVE COLLABORATION Dean C. Wolf, LCSW-C Licensed Social Worker 101 W. Main Street Westminster, Md.

21157 (410) 876-3030 304 York Street Gettysburg, Pa. 17325 (717) 337-9503

A Short List of Reflections for Engaging & Building Relationships with Families Treat parents as experts on the lives of their children Invite and reach out to parents in involving them in all assessment, planning, intervention and treatment meetings • Focus on the family, natural and community support systems rather than the child as the overall unit of service • Put the child/family in the driver’s seat in defining what problems are to be targeted for change. Craft solutions in partnership with families that fit their particular circumstance and work best for them • Utilize a team driven, collaborative, strengths-based system of evaluation • Avoid diagnostic, pathology driven and deficit-based language in all interactions with families • Ask questions that highlight for the family and yourself their strengths, abilities and competence in solving problems • Search for exceptions to problems, that is focus on when the problem isn’t happening, when the problem happens but is of a lesser degree and when the child/family is tempted into the problem (s) but resists the pull of the problem • Be curious about the experience/history of the family and what has worked for them • Give parents real power in making decisions for their children. Take leadership from “one step behind” • Assume cooperation and collaboration is inevitable. Work on developing trust in families and that they will work with you if you work hard enough to win them over • Avoid the “expert” role and resist the temptation to lecture, give advice or tell families what to do • Use humor and light-hearted interactions including teasing and playfulness in conversing with families. This is a truly powerful tool. • Affirm and validate all family members in their efforts to change both past and present. Offer hope and optimism in your conversations with families, communicating the belief they will ultimately triumph in their efforts to change • Introduce strengths-based tools and interventions in working with families such as the Strengths-Based Portfolio, the Victory Box and utilizing children/families as consultants • Develop positive consequences in consultation with parents when kids mess up • Cultivate a “Thomas Edison” mindset in working with families that is there is no such thing as failure in trying to be inventive around change. Life is a social experiment. • •

September 2008

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