Abstract: Providing Intensive, Equitable Case Management to Families: The Family Coaching Approach (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

Providing Intensive, Equitable Case Management to Families: The Family Coaching Approach

Sunday, January 19, 2020
Independence BR C, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Regina Clemons, Chief Program Officer, Community Properties of Ohio, Columbus, OH
Tanja Jones, LSW, na, Community Properties of Ohio, na, OH
The Columbus, Ohio FCCC demonstration serves the Weinland Park neighborhood. The program targets families with multiple barriers to self-sufficiency. Families must be below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. Many face personal or secondhand experiences of trauma. Parents often face challenges in keeping a stable full-time job and finding reliable transportation. Many school-age children within participating families do not enter school kindergarten-ready. Further, most participants are part of historically disenfranchised populations: As of December 2018, adults involved in FCCC programming were 91 percent female and 77 percent Black/African-American. 

Though an abundance of organizations throughout the United States offer case management to families in poverty, many are not successful at guiding them toward self-sufficiency. Research demonstrates that often traditional approaches to case management do not deliver services equitably because they do not address the plethora of barriers to sustained success that families face. This has left the field looking for alternative approaches.   

Next Doors is the primary service for many FCCC families. This paper presents an overview of the evidence-based model, called “family coaching,” that Next Doors coaches employ, including its inherent values and how its innovative components are designed to address the shortcomings of traditional case management. Family coaching is partially adapted from the EMPath practice of Mobility Mentoring™, a mentor-led approach to moving families out of poverty through behavior change. The approach builds skills through interaction between two people over time, preparing the participant to tackle future goals independently. It is based on the values that the coach and participant are equals; that families are experts on their own lives; that everyone has the potential to grow; and that coaches approach participants with “unconditional positive regard,” continuing to work with them in the face of setbacks. The relationship between participant and coach is foundational to the work. Key aspects of this coaching model that set it apart from traditional case management include generally smaller caseloads; coach-participant relationships lasting multiple years; participant creation of their own goals; higher training standards for coaches; and an emphasis on developing solutions to systems barriers.

This paper will also present tools that coaches use and what makes each critical to successful coaching. Tools used as part of coaching include participant self-assessments, as well as family tree matrix assessments that coaches use to record factors that families need to achieve stabilization, factors they need to sustain well-being, and factors they need to achieve self-sufficiency.

Finally, the paper provides evidence of successful outputs from Next Doors coaching based on program implementation data. This includes the longevity of family-coach engagement; results of family matrix assessments over time, which illustrate families’ journeys toward self-sufficiency; and stories of families’ journeys collected from participant interviews.

A descriptive evaluation of the Weinland Park FCCC demonstration found suggestive evidence that family coaching contributed to positive family outcomes. This paper offers an important contribution to the field about a promising approach to moving families with multiple barriers toward self-sufficiency.