Family Selection Training

Once you have identified potential families for the child, you should use the Placement Decision Matrix[i] to visually document and view potential families.  This tool can be used to list and cross-reference strengths and potential barriers to placement.  Many counties use this tool during their family selection process and keep a copy of it in the child’s record to verify the process and officially document their efforts to find permanency.  This is an overview of how it works:

  • The first column is for the child’s information.  In this column you want to identify the strengths and needs of the child.
  • The next two columns are for potential resource families.  The column format allows you to compare families.  Again, you will list both the strengths of the family and barriers to placement.

When identifying barriers to placement for a family, try to think in terms of ruling a family in, not out.  For example, if a child has “sexual abuse issues” listed as a need, and the potential resource family appears to be a strong match with the exception of no experience in sexual abuse issues, rather than ruling the family out, you might want to look at ways you could support the family to become a viable resource for the child.  If the family is strong in all other areas, think about ways to address the barriers you found and offer the family some specialized training where it is needed.

Family Design Resources (FDR) and SWAN developed a training to help you understand and use the Placement Decision Matrix.  The learning objectives for the family selection training, which can be adapted to a half, one or two-day training are:


  • Identify family selection as a process embedded in all phases of the child welfare service delivery system.
  • Identify the components of family engagement as they apply to making permanency decisions.
  • Identify the sources of law that support effective and timely permanency decisions.
  • Demonstrate skills associated with using family engagement as a tool to team building and family involvement in the selection process.
  • Link the impact of your own values, principles and skills to the selection process.
  • Assess and identify the strengths of various family types as resources for children.
  • Explain and guide you through the use of the Selection Process Review Checklist and the Placement Decision Matrix.


Many critical points of the selection process are discussed in this curriculum, which was developed by Jane Johnston, PAE division manager, and Deb Gadsden, SWAN training specialist. For more information on the Family Selection Training or Placement Decision Matrix, contact your PAE coordinator.

[i] Placement Decision Matrix: