Policy & Practice | April 2022

Figure 1. Conceptual Model of the Black Family Research Agenda

history of affirming practices, such as including Black families and community members as partners. Because local and community context is critically important to high-quality human services provision, programs that wish to more comprehensively understand families’ needs should not simply use and review static statistics and numbers. Instead, to best serve Black families, whose cultural assets and shifting demographics are often not reflected in large-scale data sets, programs should engage with more thoughtful research that considers families’ voice and experiences. While researchers are typically not embedded in human services agencies, programs can partner with community-based researchers to conduct such activi- ties and facilitate a more holistic view of the strengths, assets, and needs of Black (and other) families and inform the design of supportive policies and programming. 10 Guiding Questions As human services programs and professionals consider these recom- mendations, we suggest that they use the following questions to guide their thinking about the best use of research and data to better serve Black families: n What are your personal values and how do they show up in your work? n How does the culture of your orga- nization influence the ways in which you design policies and program- matic practices? n What does your agency know about the families receiving your services? How do you know this information? n What doesn’t your agency know about the families that utilize your services? What would you like to know about these families? How might you learn this information? n What types of research, data, or other information are used to inform your program operations and policies? What is/are the source(s) of this information? Do they use a strengths-based and/or asset-focused perspective? Do they capture the variation of and in Black families? How often do you revisit these sources?

in Black families (family structure, living arrangements, economic status, gender, sexual orientation, disabilities, geography, religion, etc.) to develop a more complete understanding of Black families and potential intersections in their identities and characteristics. Examine assumptions and biases—especially the ways in which professionals’ personal experiences, values, and organizational cultures may affect their approaches to col- lecting data, providing services, and making policies. Human services practitioners regularly collect, organize, and interpret information about families; identify and assess family strengths and limitations; and work with family members to develop goals and determine intervention strat- egies. These activities and exchanges are generally in service of families, but also result in the creation of program- matic data that are not value neutral. 6 For instance, an individual’s biases and worldview; their knowledge of families; and their agency protocols, procedures, and culture all influence the types of questions that they ask of families, the ways they interpret responses, and the steps they take to follow up. Human services agencies should dedicate the time and resources needed to reflect on how individual worker and systemic factors—such as biases and racism—may influence how they collect, interpret, and use data.

Ensure that analysis processes in human services programs are strengths based and asset focused. The ways by which program data are both collected and analyzed can result in ineffective policies and service provision for families that do not meet traditionally biased conceptions of family units. For example, when assessing a family’s living situation, some human services professionals might consider the presence of non- nuclear family members or other people in a home as problematic. Families, however, might consider these other people to be assets—indi- viduals that can be drawn on for emotional and other forms of support. 7 Without confirming families’ thoughts on their living situation, it would be impossible to know whether they welcome the presence of others in their home, or not. This issue is par- ticularly salient for Black families, who according to research, often may live in multigenerational homes 8 and draw on extended family and others as sources of support. 9 This type of strengths- based and asset-focused analysis should extend to other issues that may arise when working with families, particularly when engaged in activities such as conducting screenings, assess- ments, and developing treatment plans. Initiate partnerships with racially and culturally astute organizations, or with researchers who have a

See Nuanced Research on page 27


April 2022 Policy&Practice

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