Expert Input: What It’s Like to Deliver New Training Series on Kinship Care

Posted February 10, 2018, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Jennifer Miller on what it’s like to deliver new training series on kinship care.

The Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion has released a video train­ing series, Engag­ing Kin­ship Care­givers” led by train­er, con­sul­tant and fam­i­ly ther­a­pist Joseph Crum­b­ley. Devel­oped for child wel­fare agen­cies, the five-video series is designed to help staff mem­bers work more effec­tive­ly with kin­ship care­givers. A com­ple­men­tary dis­cus­sion guide aids pro­gram direc­tors, super­vi­sors and train­ers in enrich­ing dia­logues dur­ing indi­vid­ual and group sessions.

In this post, Jen­nifer Miller, found­ing part­ner of Child­Fo­cus, reflects on her expe­ri­ence admin­is­ter­ing the train­ing series to child wel­fare staff.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about Child­Fo­cus and your work?

Miller: Child­Fo­cus is a nation­al child wel­fare con­sult­ing firm that sup­ports non­prof­its, pub­lic agen­cies and foun­da­tions in the areas of pol­i­cy advo­ca­cy, strate­gic plan­ning, orga­ni­za­tion­al devel­op­ment, and peer learn­ing and con­sul­ta­tion. We found­ed Child­Fo­cus over a decade ago. We came togeth­er around a shared pas­sion for con­nect­ing peo­ple, pro­grams and pol­i­cy to make a dif­fer­ence for chil­dren and families.

Q: What are some chal­lenges that child wel­fare sys­tems face in find­ing and keep­ing kin­ship caregivers?

Miller: First and fore­most, it is crit­i­cal for child wel­fare agen­cies to believe in kin­ship care. It’s not just a place­ment option — it’s a philosophy.

While most front­line staff have a strong under­stand­ing of what fos­ter par­ents need in order to pro­vide nur­tur­ing care for chil­dren in fos­ter care, these same staff mem­bers are less adept at man­ag­ing the par­tic­u­lar needs of kin­ship care­givers. Train­ing that dif­fer­en­ti­ates the kin­ship care­giv­ing expe­ri­ence from fos­ter par­ent­ing is crit­i­cal and can help staff effec­tive­ly work with kin­ship families.

To do this, child wel­fare agency staff need a fun­da­men­tal under­stand­ing of the unique expe­ri­ences of kin­ship care­givers and the com­plex fam­i­ly dynam­ics asso­ci­at­ed with step­ping in for chil­dren who have been removed from their par­ents. Staff also need to under­stand how to sup­port kin­ship care­givers in a way that is dif­fer­ent from non-kin fos­ter parents.

Q: You recent­ly con­duct­ed a train­ing using the Foundation’s new kin­ship care video train­ing. How did it go?

Miller: Child­Fo­cus was thrilled when the Casey Foun­da­tion decid­ed to devel­op a video series that would help child wel­fare agency staff sup­port care­givers who are step­ping in to care for a relative’s child.

The video series is the per­fect tool because it presents crit­i­cal con­cepts that are clear, com­pelling and eas­i­ly adapt­able to every­day prac­tice. Most impor­tant­ly, the train­ing is con­sis­tent with the over­rid­ing phi­los­o­phy that chil­dren do best with their own fam­i­lies. Dur­ing our train­ing in Utah, pri­vate providers who had nev­er worked with kin­ship care­givers enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly par­tic­i­pat­ed in the group activ­i­ties. After­ward, many shared that they felt bet­ter pre­pared to antic­i­pate and respond to the needs of kin­ship care­givers. As a result, the agen­cies — which are con­sid­er­ing doing more in the area of kin­ship care — rec­og­nized a need for addi­tion­al train­ing and sup­port as their staff begin to work with kin­ship families.

Q: How did you use the series?

Miller: We used the video series in a Kin­ship 101 train­ing, which we con­duct­ed for three pri­vate fos­ter care agen­cies that are locat­ed in a state where there is inter­est in hav­ing pri­vate agen­cies do more to meet the needs of kin­ship fam­i­lies. Dur­ing the train­ing, we intro­duced two of the videos, had a dis­cus­sion about the audi­ence’s reac­tion to the videos, and used case stud­ies to iden­ti­fy and rein­force some of the con­cepts that the videos conveyed.

The train­ing par­tic­i­pants gave excel­lent feed­back. They spoke about how the videos and sub­se­quent dia­logue helped them become more attuned to what kin­ship care­givers were expe­ri­enc­ing and what strate­gies they could use to help care­givers move for­ward in a way that was in the best inter­ests of the chil­dren in their care.

Q: Who do you think will ben­e­fit most from this series?

Miller: This video series is a pow­er­ful tool for pro­gram direc­tors, super­vi­sors and train­ers of pub­lic and pri­vate child wel­fare agen­cies who strive to equip front­line work­ers to sup­port kin care­givers dur­ing times that can be espe­cial­ly stress­ful for chil­dren and families.

Q: With tools and resources like the video series are avail­able, what’s your out­look on kin­ship care as you look to the future?

Miller: Kin­ship fam­i­lies are an incred­i­bly valu­able resource for chil­dren in fos­ter care. Child­Fo­cus is opti­mistic that, over the next decade, we will see an increas­ing pro­por­tion of chil­dren in fos­ter care liv­ing with kin. But kin­ship care can­not be done on the cheap, and kin­ship fam­i­lies need to feel that they have broad sup­port to help them suc­ceed. This video series is a crit­i­cal resource that can enable child wel­fare agen­cies to strength­en their approach to engag­ing and sup­port­ing kin families.

Q: Are there any oth­er take­aways you found valu­able about the video series?

Miller: After con­duct­ing our first train­ing, we are con­vinced — now more than ever — that the videos pro­vide an extra­or­di­nary oppor­tu­ni­ty for super­vi­sors and pro­gram man­agers to deep­en dis­cus­sions about kin­ship cas­es with their front­line work­ers, enhance their super­vi­sion of strength-based approach­es to kin­ship fam­i­lies, and cre­ate room for work­ers to express con­cerns about the safe­ty and well-being of chil­dren in kin­ship care. We are excit­ed about the poten­tial for the videos to spark even more action on behalf of kin­ship families.

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