Vital involvement: A key to grounding child welfare practice in hbse theory

Helen Q Kivnick, Marcie D. Jefferys, Patricia J. Heier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Although children’s well-being is the ultimate concern of child welfare services, the serious consequences of abuse and neglect have directed the system to a primary focus on the dangers in a child’s environment. Child protective service workers have historically found little time to attend to individual and family strengths, while complying with laws and mandated procedures that prioritize minimizing harm and correcting problems. Thus, in terms of HBSE's “person and environment” duality, workers are required to attend largely to the environment and minimizing its problems, leaving them little energy for the person (child) and promoting her/his strengths. The child welfare field is encouraging increased attention to the well-being of children in the system. To provide a model for addressing both the person and the environmentparticularly for school-aged children, this manuscript draws on HBSE theory to present vital involvement as a construct that links person and environment, and that incorporates strengths and problems. Related to popular concepts of resilience, prevention, and strength-based practice, this construct provides a basis for promoting the psychosocial strengths of children in the child welfare system, while maintaining an also essential focus on their environment. Further, the manuscript introduces practice examples that illustrate a functional distribution of professional attention between person and environment, and between negative and positive factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)181-205
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2003


  • Positive development
  • Prevention
  • Resilience
  • Strength-based practice
  • Vital involvement


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