Talking Family-Centered Practice With United Way’s Henrietta Muñoz

Posted March 22, 2018
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Henrietta Muñoz (holding child) and staff from Dual Generation Partnership

Henrietta Muñoz (holding child) and staff the Dual Generation Partnership

As part of its Fam­i­ly-Cen­tered Com­mu­ni­ty Change port­fo­lio, the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion is part­ner­ing with com­mu­ni­ty devel­op­ment ini­tia­tives in three cities — Buf­fa­lo, Colum­bus and San Anto­nio — to inte­grate dis­con­nect­ed ser­vices for kids and adults. With an end goal of strength­en­ing fam­i­lies, this approach focus­es on enhanc­ing both the qual­i­ty of schools for chil­dren as well as job and par­ent­ing skills for adults.

In a new blog post series, Casey explores what Fam­i­ly-Cen­tered Com­mu­ni­ty Change looks like to the orga­ni­za­tions involved. This entry shares the per­spec­tive of Hen­ri­et­ta Muñoz, who serves as the senior vice pres­i­dent of research and eval­u­a­tion at Unit­ed Way of San Anto­nio and Bexar Coun­ty. Read our inter­views with prac­ti­tion­ers in Buf­fa­lo and Colum­bus.

Casey: How would you describe fam­i­ly-cen­tered practice?

Hen­ri­et­ta Muñoz: Fam­i­ly-cen­tered prac­tice is hold­ing the fam­i­ly and their goals at the cen­ter of your work. Every deci­sion, every move we make and every piece of data we have is to bet­ter serve our families.

Casey: How has this work evolved over time?

Muñoz: We have learned that it is impor­tant to be as inten­tion­al as pos­si­ble about inte­grat­ing our work with the work of our part­ners. We have also learned that this lev­el of collaboration—which involves devel­op­ing a shared account­abil­i­ty and rec­og­niz­ing our col­lec­tive contributions—takes time.

Casey: What val­ues dri­ve this work?

Muñoz: Fam­i­lies first! We val­ue the per­spec­tives and voic­es of oth­ers. We val­ue each other’s respec­tive roles and what they bring to the table. We val­ue fam­i­lies’ exper­tise in know­ing how to make their fam­i­ly work, and we val­ue and respect how fam­i­lies make deci­sions. We also val­ue choice and make fam­i­lies aware that they have a choice in how they proceed.

Casey: Do staff need dif­fer­ent train­ing to be fam­i­ly centered?

Muñoz: Yes. Being fam­i­ly cen­tered is not rock­et sci­ence, but it is a sci­ence. It is about remem­ber­ing and respect­ing the fact that fam­i­lies will ulti­mate­ly lead the way. Hold­ing a fam­i­ly at the cen­ter of a long-term case man­age­ment effort can be tax­ing, so encour­ag­ing self-care among staff is also impor­tant. Train­ing reminds us of the impor­tance of mutu­al respect and how that works. It helps us bet­ter nav­i­gate dif­fer­ent fam­i­ly sit­u­a­tions, and it helps us grow as coach­es and case managers.

Casey: Are there mis­con­cep­tions about fam­i­ly-cen­tered practice?

Muñoz: Some might think that fam­i­ly-cen­tered means that you do not need to fol­low a ser­vice mod­el or hold fideli­ty to evi­dence-based cur­ricu­lum. Not true! We incor­po­rate the meth­ods of fam­i­ly-cen­tered prac­tice into our evi­dence-based ser­vice models.

Casey: Any advice for oth­ers look­ing to adopt a fam­i­ly-cen­tered practice?

Muñoz: Con­sid­er get­ting trained in trau­ma-informed case man­age­ment and coach­ing, and please take care of your front-line lead­er­ship, as they will be the ones imple­ment­ing the fam­i­ly-cen­tered prac­tice and expe­ri­enc­ing the trau­mas, chal­lenges and joys right along with the fam­i­lies that they support.

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