CRAFFTing a Plan for Training Resource Families
As Pat O’Brien says, “Permanency is a relationship, not a place.” To have their best chance for a safe and healing childhood (not to mention a healthy and stable adulthood!), children and youth in foster care need FAMILY relationships. Family, societal, and substance abuse challenges have never been greater – to meet the needs they create, resource families have to be more skilled and experienced than ever before in child welfare.
Skilled and experienced families don’t happen by luck or accident. They happen with thoughtful recruitment, development, and support (RDS) – unless you have limitless resources, you need a plan.
An RDS plan has 4 basic parts – Click here to download a template
- Data regarding kids in care, their current placements, and CPS/removal trends (this guides what families you need)
- Review of current families – capacity, usage, and needs (what viable families do you have)
Your regional Resource Family Consultant can assist you in pulling together the first two parts – don't skip these pieces! No matter how few or how many children & families you have, this process is invaluable. Your Consultant also has a wealth of recruitment resources in addition to those linked.
Comparing information in parts 1 & 2 will tell you where the gap is –that gap is the focus of parts 3 & 4.
- Recruitment planning (finding families to fill the gap in the most effective way possible)
Most agencies do “general” recruitment, however this type of recruitment is ineffective – it casts a wide net when you only need to be fishing for certain kinds of families. The majority of your RECRUITMENT efforts should be targeted – geared toward families who are most likely to be able, with training and support, to meet the needs of your kids. It is like casting a narrow net in a smart part of the lake, using the right bait. The third part of the plan zooms in on that target families, where we are more likely to find them, and connections within the community to access them.
- NOW you can plan training! The size of your locality, the type of needs you have, and the amount of staff time that can be dedicated to resource family work are all important factors to consider as you are making a training plan.
Your plan will include training for the DEVELOPMENT of new families (especially those in your targeted recruitment plan!), such as:
- Information Sessions (some call these Orientations) – a short session that gives prospective parents information about resource parenting and the requirements, and allows them to ask questions. Some localities do these less formally, with individual families rather than in a group.
- Pre-Service Series – many agencies in Virginia use PRIDE, which is a nine session series that helps prospective parents make an informed decision about being a resource family, provides the basic knowledge & skills to be a resource parent, and enables the agency to make observations for assessment. Click here for more detailed information about PRIDE.
- Mentoring – this can be as informal as making sure every new family has an experienced family's contact info before their first placement or as formal as FACES' Trailblazers.
Your training plan will also include training & activities that SUPPORT your current and newly-approved families – with a special emphasis on your target needs.
If you have recruited families to take teens, for instance, you will want to make sure your plan includes training that specifically supports those parents in managing adolescent relationships, identity issues, and life skills. Supportive training and activities might include (but are not limited to!):
- In-Service training sessions – group training offered by the agency, community partners, CRAFFT, etc. Families should be surveyed for their training needs each year.
- At-home training – a worker/trainer might go into the home and do training one-on-one with parents, around a child-specific issue, for example, or if there are not enough parents to gather a group. Agencies may allow instructive time with a therapist, specialist, etc. to be considered for training credit.
- Self-paced training – a wide range of options allows parents to select topics and formats that work within their needs and schedules, such as taking an online course about discipline, reading a book on separation & loss issues, or watching a movie/documentary about foster care.
- Support groups – sometimes combined with training, these groups allow parents to get together and give each other insights, strategies, and support. As technology expands, virtual meetings, online hangouts, and sharing via conference calls can allow families to participate who might be geographically isolated or need to be at home for supervision.
Good training and support are critical to retain your families and increase their skills.
Increased prevention work across the Commonwealth means that the children and youth who now come into care, do so from the most challenged families – meaning that they, themselves, have often internalized many challenges. As situations get tougher, we must focus on retaining the families we develop so that they learn how to manage increasingly difficult challenges. Newbie parents may not be able to manage children with more exceptional issues or mental health needs – experienced families create placement options.
Retained families are your best recruiters – the number one recruitment strategy, nation-wide, is positive word-of-mouth from current families.
Don't forget the importance of hand-holding the very first placement a family experiences – this is a crucial support and retention measure! Many families quit after their first placement, siting a lack of support, inadequate information, and poor customer service as key reasons. Not only does this create a constant need for more and more families, it also generates negative word of mouth ... which undermines recruitment.
Therefore, good retention = great recruitment. So when you are making that training plan, focus as much on part four as you do on part three!