The Minnesota Child Welfare Practice Framework is a set of competencies that have been created to assist child welfare professionals in defining and demonstrating their knowledge, skills, and understanding across a number of different practice areas. In Minnesota, child welfare practice is guided by this practice framework, which offers outcomes, values, principles and skills necessary to promote child safety, permanency, and well-being.

In this article let’s explore the worker competencies associated with Engagement, to discuss how they relate to our work, and to provide resources for developing those competencies. Engagement states the expectation that workers are able to respectfully relate to and engage with families from a strengths-based, family-centered perspective to establish common goals concerning child safety, permanency and well-being.

Merriam-Webster says that to engage means to offer (something, such as one's life or word) as backing to a cause or aim: to expose to risk for the attainment or support of some end. What does engagement look like for you in your child welfare work?

The Practice Framework lists twelve foundational competencies for Engagement. The first states that a child welfare professional: Creates a relationship with children, youth and families by listening and appreciating the families’ stories and recognizing and acknowledging their (children/family) expertise about their own family system. Another states that a worker: Understands the critical role of developing trust with children and families engaged in child welfare services.

Beyond the foundational competencies, the Framework also provides advanced level competencies, with one example stating that workers: Can explore and partner with potential resources and natural networks (extended family, friends, religious communities, etc.) to utilize strengths and enhance safety.

Refer to pages 6-7 of the Minnesota Child Welfare Practice Framework to review all competencies related to Engagement, and consider ways to develop your own knowledge and skills. Following are several resources to explore.

  • Protective Factors Vignettes are scenarios that illustrate how multiple protective factors support and strengthen families who are experiencing stress. The Training Academy uses these vignettes in trainings to highlight how workers identify a family’s strengths and protective factors, which is one of the tasks listed under the Engagement competency.
  • Protective Factors Framework in Child Welfare Systems provide general information about protective factors and on better understanding how those factors may contribute to or explain positive outcomes for children, families, and communities.
  • Bright Futures is a project of the Bright Futures Children’s Health Center that we use in training to discuss the developmental stages of youth from birth to young adulthood, which is another subset of the Engagement competency.
  • Sesame Street has created several great videos that help address sensitive issues such as explaining parental incarceration and visiting parents in prison.

If you have discovered other resources for developing competencies in engagement, please share! Email us at, or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

With a better understanding of the competencies for front-line workers and their supervisors, we can reflect the specific knowledge and skills necessary for culturally-responsive, trauma-informed, and developmentally-based work with children, families, communities, and tribes across Minnesota.