The Potential of Motivational Interviewing

Implementing a practice that shifts the center of gravity in child welfare


Too often, child welfare systems have failed to meet the needs of families facing adversity.
Intervention and surveillance have taken precedence over addressing family trauma and other risk factors. And a punitive approach has disproportionately penalized Black and Brown families, compounding historic injustice.

At Chapin Hall, we not only build evidence, we also work with systems to apply evidence-based practices that can improve and even transform how we serve families. Motivational Interviewing (MI) is one of those practices.

MI is a collaborative, goal-oriented style of communication characterized by compassion and designed to strengthen personal commitment to making change by exploring the person’s own reasons for change. MI creates affirming and transformative service experiences by providing a framework for workers and clinicians to reach, engage, and empower families. It replaces the reactive or punitive interactions that have characterized child welfare for too long, and is backed by a strong body of evidence.

With MI now an approved practice for federal funding under the Family First Prevention Services Act, Chapin Hall is committed to helping agencies implement this practice with fidelity to ensure the best outcomes for families. As Family First shifts the center of gravity in child welfare toward strengthening families and preventing maltreatment, child welfare systems recognize the power in the MI model to change how they carry out their mission. As with all evidence-based practices, however, the transformative potential of MI is highly dependent on effective implementation.

With our partners at Public Consulting Group (PCG), we have created the Motivational Interviewing Guide to boost impact at each step of the planning and implementation process.

Download the guide

This guide provides a roadmap through the MI planning and implementation process, including:

  • Planning and Readiness. The planning and readiness section begins with an overview of the model, reviews the historical context and current policymaking environment, and provides a summary of key benefits of the approach for child welfare systems. The planning section concludes with guidance for developing an implementation strategy and drafting an implementation plan.
  • Implementation and Change Management. The implementation and change management section of the guide provides an in-depth exploration of considerations and approaches for two core components of MI implementation: supporting workforce capacity and claiming. Each of these implementation components is thoroughly reviewed, highlighting current practice as well as opportunities.
  • Continuous Quality Improvement. This section provides a step-by-step guide for developing an approach to continuous quality improvement (CQI) for Motivational Interviewing. Fidelity monitoring methods and instruments are explored in depth and key MI outcomes are identified.



Chapin Hall offers additional consultation services to child welfare jurisdictions and nonprofits that provide direct service to support them in every step of this process. As a trusted advisor and implementation partner to child welfare agencies across the nation, Chapin Hall provides support to design, plan, install, monitor, and evaluate evidence-based programs in alignment with the research literature and best practice. Chapin Hall’s team of policy experts, implementation scientists, and researchers can guide a jurisdiction through exploration of the evidence of Motivational Interviewing’s effectiveness. As a jurisdiction moves forward with implementation, Chapin Hall can support alignment with the existing practice model, as well as other system-change efforts and improvement efforts.

This work is led by Senior Policy Analyst Katie Rollins, who works with jurisdictions across the county to administer major reform initiatives and whose work is informed by her experience at New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services. Key members of the MI team also include Senior Policy Analyst Jessica Rothkuo, who supports systems transformation under Family First; Policy Analyst Hayley Landes, who specializes in addressing the impacts of child trauma; and Senior Policy Analyst Jason Brennen, who brings deep experience in mental health and juvenile justice systems.

To work with Chapin Hall on Motivational Interviewing, please contact Katie Rollins.