People know what they need, where they’re strong, and what their families are struggling with. This internal expertise is central to an exciting new coaching model that the Chicago Jobs Council is helping spread across the United States.

Developed by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Family-Centered Coaching (FCC) is a free, open source set of strategies, tools, and resources that can help programs, agencies, case managers, and coaches more effectively engage families to reach their goals.

In 2016, Kellogg noticed that their community-based grantees and stakeholders needed an approach to social service delivery that was lead by participants and focused on families, not just individuals. There was also demand for resources that were free to use and adapt across systems and contexts. So after a significant amount of research, development, testing, and feedback with coaches, case managers, and content experts across the country, Family-Centered Coaching launched in late 2017. Chicago Jobs Council is now partnering with The Prosperity Agenda to bring this new paradigm and the tools to implement it to public and non-profit partners across the country.

At it’s core, Family-Centered Coaching changes the fundamental way in which case managers, coaches, and other social service workers engage participants. Many of our social service organizations are currently supported by funding that requires participation or other kinds of actions to receive services or benefits. And organizations are often required to meet funding outcomes which inherently incentivize specific program goals rather than holistic participant goals. Understandably, in this environment, coaches usually sit in the driver’s seat, encouraging participants to work on these specific goals or actions.

Family-centered coaching puts the participant in the driver’s seat, recognizing that people know themselves best and are more likely to achieve goals they set for themselves. With Family-Centered Coaching, coaches focus on the family holistically, recognizing that they are their own best experts at what they need, what strengths they have and how to overcome their most pressing challenges.

The Family-Centered Coaching toolkit offers coaching and organizational resources that draw upon best practices in many fields, including coaching, behavioral economics, executive skills, and trauma-informed care. It offers a practical set of tools and approaches that can be integrated into direct service and organizational practice. Establishing a coaching mindset that is strength-based, and through which coaches can draw upon various strategies to work with families, including case management, motivational interviewing, and goal-setting, is a core component of the approach. And importantly, family-centered coaching is rooted in an understanding of the institutional forces that prevent vulnerable families from moving forward.

One key Family-Centered Coaching tool is the Wheel of Life, seen below. This is an assessment and goal setting tool that coaches can use with participants to identify the important areas of their life, determine their satisfaction with these areas, and start to develop specific goals in areas they’d like to change.

When using the Wheel of Life, a coach invites the participant to rank their current satisfaction with each area of their life on a scale from 1 to 5 (with 1 being very unsatisfied and 5 being very satisfied) with each area of their life being represented by a slice of the wheel. The participant would color in the slice to their corresponding level of satisfaction. After completing each section, the coach and participant would engage in a conversation, discussing key questions such as: “What part of your wheel are you most proud of? Tell me about that area.” Followed by, “What area are you less satisfied with that you might want to work on?” Eventually, they would set goals together around a key priority area identified by the participant. The Wheel of Life is emblematic of the Family-Centered Coaching approach as it is completely participant led, takes a holistic view of a participant’s life and family, and moves toward actionable goals.

Chicago Jobs Council is currently launching a learning cohort around Family-Centered Coaching to begin in Chicago in late April 2019. If you’d like to learn more about the toolkit, you can watch a webinar about Family-Centered Coaching here and download the toolkit for free on The Prosperity Agenda’s website here.

If you’re interested in learning more about FCC training opportunities, please contact Kaitlyn McGovern, Program Manager, at kaitlyn@cjc.net.