Transformative Practice

The Courage to Change a System: An interview with Meg and Ashley, new supervisors in Hennepin County, Minnesota, USA

Meg ashley
Child Protection Supervisor
Child Protection Supervisor


Bill: Would you briefly describe the context for the piece of practice we’re going to be talking about today?

Meg and Ashley: Traditionally, any time a child has been placed, within 72 hours, the family is handed a case plan right before the hold hearing to inform them how we’ll move forward (By the very nature of the situation, this is usually a “done to” the family instead of a “done with” the family). We decided to do it differently, to involve the family before the hearing so as to co-create the case plan, to be clear about our bottom lines, and to work with the family together to come up with next steps to move things forward.  Also, on this we wanted to involve the larger family.

Bill: What was hard for you about doing it differently this time?

Meg: Being brave to try something that wasn’t part of the structure of our agency. Taking the leap of faith. (Being) scared it wouldn’t be helpful to the family or effective for our process… also that what came out of the meeting might be disregarded (by the family and/or the agency).

Ashley: Trying something new and I didn’t want to look like a complete moron in front of family and the other workers who were present.

Bill: In the event that you each have grandchildren and they find this article 40 years from now, what do you want them to know about your work on this?

Ashley: Taking a chance, thinking outside the box. We took a chance to grow and maybe even have it be better for the family.

Meg: We changed something from being dictated to a family to being relationship-focused. Creating change and making a difference happen through building relationships.

Bill: What was the biggest challenge for the family?

Meg: Laying out the real nitty gritty of what happened in front of the people they love and respect who were at the table.

Ashley: Super high anxiety – their kids were removed and they didn’t understand the process and had very little control. Talking about the things they were struggling with in their family.

Bill: If the family wrote you a Thank You note, which they most likely will (ha, ha, ha), what would they be thanking you most about?

Ashley: Actively listening to them even in the midst of a lot of concerns and worry.  The process at least allowed them to be heard and we honored their experience and how crappy it must have been for them.

Meg: They would thank us for being real with them and working with them so that we were clear what our next steps would be and where we were all headed, which was to get those kids back home as soon as it was safe.

Bill: What might the family be shocked to know about your work with this matter?

Meg: They would have been shocked that this isn’t business as usual for us. They hadn’t been in court before, so they hadn’t ever been handed a case plan. Had they known that was business as usual they would have been happy that didn’t happen this time.

Ashley: That it spurred such conversation in Hennepin, and now things are changing because of what happened with their family.

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SafeGenerations logo.Reproduced with permission from SafeGenerations. This article appeared originally in their email newsletter UpWords, Volume 1, Issue 1.