Child Welfare Program Leverages Parent Advocates to Help Reunite Families

Posted December 14, 2020
Blog toimprovefamilyreunification 2020

The Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion has part­nered with New York City’s Admin­is­tra­tion for Children’s Ser­vices (ACS) to launch a pilot pro­gram that pairs par­ents nav­i­gat­ing the fos­ter care sys­tem with par­ent advo­cates who know what it’s like.

Called Par­ents Sup­port­ing Par­ents, the pro­gram aims to increase the num­ber of chil­dren who are reunit­ed with their fam­i­lies. Join­ing Casey and ACS in this part­ner­ship are Casey Fam­i­ly Pro­grams, the Redlich Hor­witz Foun­da­tion and the Warn­er Fund. Rise, an advo­ca­cy orga­ni­za­tion focused on sup­port­ing par­ents involved with the child wel­fare sys­tem, will pro­vide train­ing and coach­ing to par­ent advocates.

A pro­gram such as this is a life­line to par­ents and chil­dren as they rebuild their lives togeth­er,” says San­dra Gas­ca-Gon­za­lez, vice pres­i­dent of Casey’s Cen­ter for Sys­tems Inno­va­tion. Nav­i­gat­ing the child wel­fare sys­tem can be over­whelm­ing to any­one but espe­cial­ly to par­ents who are new to the expe­ri­ence. Par­ent advo­cates have walked many miles in those same shoes and are unique­ly and com­pas­sion­ate­ly equipped to sup­port par­ents and their fam­i­lies in grow­ing and thriv­ing through this process.”

Under the pilot pro­gram, paid par­ent advo­cates will serve as men­tors with­in a des­ig­nat­ed fos­ter care case plan­ning unit. The par­ent advo­cates will con­nect with each par­ent enter­ing their assigned unit, includ­ing par­tic­i­pat­ing in case deci­sion-mak­ing and help­ing fam­i­lies reuni­fy with their children.

Work­ing with fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties is crit­i­cal to improv­ing how the child wel­fare sys­tem responds to the needs of fam­i­lies,” says Feli­cia Kel­lum, a senior asso­ciate with the Casey Foundation’s Child Wel­fare Strat­e­gy Group. Bring­ing in par­ent part­ners can help us reunite more fam­i­lies while also help­ing to address dis­par­i­ties with­in the fos­ter care sys­tem by improv­ing out­comes in a space where Black fam­i­lies are overrepresented.”

Kel­lum notes that match­ing par­ents with expe­ri­enced men­tors has been a best prac­tice in the field for many years. She hopes to see par­ent advo­cates take on a big­ger role in chang­ing the fos­ter care sys­tem through part­ner­ing with fos­ter care staff, being involved in pol­i­cy and prac­tice changes and bring­ing their exper­tise to con­ver­sa­tions around prevention.

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