The Family Engagement Initiative (FEI) began in 2018 with the main goal being to “enhance meaningful family involvement in the child welfare system.” (OCFCPacourts) Lehigh County is one of fifteen counties in Pennsylvania that have been asked to join this initiative which consists of: 
  • Family Finding
  • Enhanced Legal Representation
  • Crisis and Rapid Response Family Meetings

JusticeWorks’ Lehigh office has partnered with the Lehigh County Child & Youth Services (CYS) to provide Crisis and Rapid Response Meetings, as well as take part in quarterly implementation of team meetings, trainings, educational sessions and more. 

Crisis and Rapid Response Meetings are some of the most difficult and high-risk cases the county faces. In nearly all cases, placement is imminent without intervention. Our staff is tasked with meeting families within a few hours of receipt of referral, working with them to identify natural supports, and to facilitate a meeting with the family to create a plan in order to avoid placement within 72 hours. Examples of this includes: 

  • Finding a kinship (rather than foster placement) for the children.
  • Working with local housing assistance providers to help families avoid homelessness. 
  • Identifying family members that can assist with supervision of parents during abuse investigations. 

Follow-up meetings occur at 30 and 60 day intervals. In the 2020 fiscal year, JusticeWorks’ Lehigh County held 71 meetings which involved over 163 children. 

  • 94% of the meetings had more family members than professionals involved. 
  • 96% of cases, placement in foster care was avoided at the time of the meeting. 
  • 30 days later, 93% of children had still avoided foster care placement. 

Through partnership with Lehigh County CYS, the Office of Pennsylvania Courts, and by implementing JusticeWorks’ “Whatever It Takes” philosophy, we continue to keep children safe and families together in Lehigh County.