In 2020, we partnered with health and human service organizations across Kresge’s NextGen Cohort to make the intake experience for families in Detroit more connected to the whole person and the whole family. Today, most people who want to access social services in the U.S face a complex, siloed ecosystem that is catered towards the individual rather than the family unit. A lot of times, when a family or individual seeks help with mental health, childcare, immigration, or homelessness, the interaction is precipitated due to an emergency. Which is why so many of the services focus on addressing immediate, urgent needs rather than creating a plan to help people reach their goals, dreams, and potential in the long-term.
Inspired by 2Gen models towards upward mobility, we wanted to ground the theory and research into tangible moments in a family’s journey. Together with front-line staff, coaches, teachers, and leaders across these organizations, we realized that the intake moment of the experience defines the kind of support that clients receive moving forward. During intake, case workers generally gather information in order to offer resources. At the moment, a lot of the information that was being gathered was incomplete. It didn’t include clients’ relationship with their family or their future (How might this affect your children? How might this include the people you’re caring for?). If we could make the front door more fair, equitable, and easy to access, we would alleviate pain points for clients and caseworkers alike.
The Whole Family Approach is a set of practical tools, activities, and reflection prompts that can be used between caseworkers and clients, within families, or even individually. They’re designed to help people understand, acknowledge, and move beyond their current situation by inviting people to explore all the dimensions of themselves—from mapping their support systems to celebrating small milestones in their lives.
This new suite of tools was designed to be available and easy to access at https://www.wholefamilytoolkit.org/