The tools in this list are described in much greater detail in Kevin Campbell’s Family Finding; Implementation and Practice Manual. The Family Finding Manual is available for purchase from Family and Children’s Services of the Waterloo Region, Tina Metcalfe, Senior Service Manager, 200 Ardelt Ave., Kitchener, ON, N2C 2L9.
For training in Family Finding contact Seneca Family of Agencies.
Doing a genogram with a family is a straightforward way to begin to identify relatives and the role they have with the family.
Questions for Finding Naturally Connected Networks
Who are the people that have stuck with you at your best and worst moments in life?
Can you tell me about someone in your life who really got you, you really felt understood you? (Really appreciated you?)
What has been the most important day in your life and who was there to share it with you?
Who has been the person that surprised you the most when you needed help caring for your child?
Who have you relied on when things got crazy in life?
When you think about your past, who has been most supportive of you in the choices you have made regarding your children?
When you were younger, who was your favorite person?
Think back to a day when you were having a really tough time. Who was there to support you?
Tell me a story about a happy time in your life. Who was there with you?
Who was there when your child was born?
Think about a time in your past where you were in a crisis of some kind (financial, medical, etc.). Who did you confide in?
Who have you called to care for your kids in the past?
Who went with you to buy your first car/picked out your wedding dress/accompanied you to make a major purchase/etc.?
Who was the person that helped you in a really tough time that surprised you they were helpful to you in that time? Who knows about what happened about this/that situation?
Who have you told your secrets to?
Who do you trust the most?
Ask about the talents that people have in their family and who they got them from.
Where did you get your faith traditions from?
Where in the world does your family come from - who holds those stories?
Who has been there for you when you had troubles in the past?
When you think of all the people you have been close to in your whole life, whether family or friends, who has taught you the most about yourself as a person or parent? Tell me about a time that sticks out when that person showed or told you something about being a parent that you've never thought of before?
Who did you consider to be the most significant people in your life growing up?
Tell me about a moment in your life that you are proud of. Who did you share this with? Who would you share this with if they weren't there?
What was the most fun thing you have done in the last 6 months? Who was present?
When you think of your most favorite holiday celebrated with your family or loved ones, who was there and what made it so special?
Who has meant the most to you in your life?
When were you the happiest in your life
Who is someone in your life that you can call on or depend on in a time of need (crisis)?
Who is someone in your life that you would tell exciting/good news to
If you were getting married, who is the one person (or people) you would want to be there to celebrate with you?
Who will you call to invite to our next birthday celebration?
If your child was getting married tomorrow, who in your world would you dream would be there?
Who knows the most about who's in your family on your mother's side?
Who knows the most about who's in your family on your father's side?
Tell me about the people who have been unconditionally committed to you?
Tell me about the people who are unconditionally committed to you now?
For all of us there's someone who will come into our lives in the future that will help us be a better person, would you agree?
Ok, so what do you imagine they will do/be to help you be a better person?
How will you be a better person when that person comes into your life?
How will your children see you be a better person?
Kevin Campbell recommends getting into a values conversation within 5 minutes of meeting a parent.
- What’s an important value to you as a parent?
- Who taught you this value?
- What did they do to teach it to you?
- Where did they learn it?
- Who else did they teach?
- Have you taught this value to anyone?
- What are you doing to teach it?
- Who’s seen you teaching this value?
Often there isn’t enough time to go through an entire file looking for buried information on family and connections. Comb through case notes, social history information, referrals, and evaluations looking for all signs of potentially helpful connections, making note of references even when they’re vague, like a cousin in a distant city or a friend who did something helpful in the past. Ask parents, children, and existing network members for more information about these people when you can.
Social media sites such as Facebook, Linked In, and Instagram offer another way to connect with relatives, friends, and acquaintances. Many agencies and individual social workers create separate accounts on these sites to keep the professional’s private information private. The Family Finding Manual contains several sample posts for use on these sites.
It can also work to ask parents, children, and existing network members about their connections on these sites. Doing this facilitates conversations about which people might prove to be helpful and which people might create problems for the children, family, or network. These conversations can lead to family and network members making the needed connections instead of the social worker doing it on their behalf.
Too often our cold calls to relatives have been about foster care and when that’s not possible the conversation ends. Family Finding teaches social workers to engage these people in helping plan for the children. These calls might also include an invitation to a meeting to help the agency plan for the children, including an invitation to bring others who can be helpful. The Family Finding Manual includes sample scripts for telephone calls and messages.
Seneca Search Services
Family Finding has developed a database search tool for finding relatives. Instead of using a search tool like Lexis-Nexis which often requires considerable time to organize the information that can be found, Seneca’s service provides a priority organized, usable report that costs less than the cost of the time a social worker would spend using another tool.
DNA Test Kits
There are now a number of companies that sell DNA test kits for $60-$150. Within 4-8 weeks after sending in a cheek swab or saliva sample, the company provides a list of possible relatives based on available DNA comparisons.
This exercise can be helpful in thinking differently about plans for children and youth in care, especially those who are currently in a stable placement, as well as those who urgently need a new placement setting. Write down the child or youth's first name, age, ethnicity, gender, number of months involved with the system, number of placements, number of known adult relatives, number of non-relative adults with a connection to the child/youth, number of siblings and their connection, what's known about both parents, how long the child/youth will be in the current placement setting, and any safety worries and emotional worries. What will the child/youth's life be like in 5 years if nothing changes? What is the child/youth's single greatest unmet need? Write a statement that reflects this.
An Ecomap shows the systems a person is connected to including sports, school, religious groups, employment, neighborhood activities, friends, and family. Arrows show the energy to and from the person to each system.
The Connectedgram creates a quick picture of how connected, or not connected, a child, youth, or family is to the network around them. Draw four concentric circles (smaller circles inside larger circles). Have the child, youth, or family list the most supportive people and the people they’re closest to in the bullseye. Have them list those most distant and least supportive in the outer ring. The closer each person is to the center, the more supportive and stronger the relationship.
The culturagram was developed by Dr. Elaine Congress to help practitioners individualize their understanding of a family’s culture.
The Mobility Map is a way to help a child or parent remember important people in their life. Get them to draw the first house they remember living in, and the neighbors, schools, and other people who were around when they lived there. Have them draw as much as they can remember. Then move on to the next place they remember living and repeat the process. For more guidance in doing Mobility Mapping, see the Family Finding Manual.
Before or during a meeting, have the participants “resource their resources.” Have each person write or draw their connections and resources, in all areas of their life including home, school, religious, work, relatives, community, and friends. Have professionals identify agency resources. Then have each person share who they are, where they're from, and what resources they listed.
Fire House Intervention
If a crisis situation becomes evident during a meeting, adapt the meeting to focus on the crisis, much as if the house was on fire. Set goals, identify 3 key supports for the person in crisis who will also support each other, and create a specific plan around the crisis.
Rescue Engage 100
This tool will rescue a meeting when no one is engaged, talking, or coming up with ideas. Give the group 15 minutes to come up with 100 ideas to rescue or engage the parent, child, or situation. After 15 minutes or 100 ideas, have each participant pick their top 3 ideas of what they think can actually happen. Get each person to make plans and set deadlines to implement an idea.
Blended Perspective Meeting
The purpose of the blended perspective meeting is to clearly identify the needs of a child, youth or family and figure out who needs to come together to plan to meet the needs. For guidance in conducting a blended perspective meeting, refer to the Family Finding Manual.
Decision Making Meeting
The purpose of the decision making meeting is to come up with three viable plans for the child, youth, or family based on the biggest unmet needs statement that was created in the Blended Perspective Meeting, and then to prioritize them. Accomplishing this may take more than one meeting. For more information on conducting the Decision Making meetings, refer to the Family Finding Manual.
Dedicated Relative Search and Family Finding Workers
All social workers in child welfare need to be skilled at family seeing and finding. Many agencies have helped their social workers gain these skills over time by employing dedicated relative search or family finding social workers. Some agencies still have people in these roles. Social workers should use this help when it’s available. If dedicated help isn’t available, every agency has someone who’s best at engaging relatives and kin. These people are almost always willing to share their expertise with those who notice and appreciate their skill.