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As we discussed in our previous blog, supporting our foster parents is necessary. We believe that in order to serve our children and youth in the best way possible, we must serve our parents to the best of our ability. Over the years, we have tried different techniques. Some have been effective and some have not, but here are a few more of the things we try to do to make the life of a foster parent a little bit easier!
A few times a year, we offer children’s groups. Through a partnership with the Boston Inspiring Connections Outdoors (Boston ICO https://www.bostonico.org/bostonico.htm), we have hosted outdoor activities for our kiddos. Hiking, kayaking, and visiting a working farm have been among the activities chosen. This offers children the opportunity to put down their screens, step out of their comfort zones, try something new, and make new friends. Additionally, we work with community education groups to provide age-appropriate sexual health and education groups to tweens, teens, and young adults. We hope to increase the number of children’s groups this year, including CPR and First Aid training, social skills groups, yoga groups, and more. This also supports foster parents by making sure they aren’t the sole provider of all aspects of a child’s needs. We are part of your team!
Foster Parent Partners
When new foster parents come on board, we often pair them with a more seasoned foster parent. This provides a connection and a welcome-person within the program. They might call a new foster parent a few times a month to check in, get together for coffee, or plan to attend the same support group. It is a nice introduction to the program and allows new foster parents to feel embraced and supported.
Weekly Case Management Meetings
Case managers are required to see the children to whom they are assigned once per week. However, we work to make sure that our case managers are not just checking in with the child, but also checking in with our foster parents. We want to be sure that foster parents and case managers are communicating fluidly. It might just be a five-minute check-in or it might mean a fully joint meeting between the case manager, child or youth, and parent. Sometimes, it might be a few check-ins, both by phone and in person, per week, as well as attendance at important meetings. Case Managers are there to support everyone and do everything they can to make support success!
Foster Parent Supervision
Other agencies call this a Family Resource Worker, but we refer to it as a Foster Parent Supervisor. This person comes out once per month and meets just with the foster parent(s). It offers time to discuss what is going well, what is hard, what trainings might provide more information and education, and just to process the many emotions that go along with foster care. They often attend meetings with the foster parents, like IEP Meetings, Foster Care Reviews at the DCF office, and Clinical Assessment meetings. While they typically only come out for one monthly meeting in the home, Foster Parent Supervisors develop a very close relationship with the parents they serve.
JRI Foster Care is fortunate to be connected to the JRI Trauma Center (https://jri.org/services/behavioral-health-and-trauma/southeast-behavioral-health-center) and the rest of JRI’s clinical services. We provide office space for clinicians to see their clients at our program, which allows foster parents time to check in with staff, watch a training video while they wait for their child’s therapy session to conclude, and allows for seamless communication between clinical staff members, the case management team, the foster parent, and other providers. Children are not required to be seen by a JRI clinician, but it is convenient and supportive for many of our homes. Additionally, JRI Foster Care holds monthly clinical consultations with a psychologist. Case Managers present cases that are challenging and our psychologist reviews case files and notes. His observations often lead to new ideas for treatment and support. Foster parents are always invited to these presentations, as are biological families, when appropriate.
JRI Foster Care maintains a contract with JRI’s Educational Advocacy Program (https://jri.org/services/community/education). Educational needs of children in foster care are often underserved and overlooked. This program allows us to present specific cases and to gain insight into what to request from a school system. The intricacies of an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) are difficult for most people to understand, but this program helps us break things down and make sure students are getting the services they need to succeed! Foster parents have been greatly assisted by this service and have watched as their kiddos have bloomed upon receiving the correct supports.
Are you a foster parent? Do you have suggestions for things that we can do to improve our service and care of foster parents, children and youth, or biological families? Please make your suggestion in the comments below or by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
If we sound like an agency that could support you on your foster care journey, please complete our inquiry form to begin the process.