Policies on Providing Timely Staff & Peer Support to Foster Parents

Providing Timely Staff & Peer Support to Foster Parents graphic

Michigan’s Foster Care Navigator program

Michigan's diligent recruitment plan describes its foster care navigator program as an important strategy in supporting prospective foster parents. A Foster Care Navigator (FCN) is someone who serves as a liaison between current and prospective foster parents and their agency. Each Foster Care Navigator will mentor, through their own experience, parents navigating through the world of foster care. Modeled after the Michigan Adoption Resource Exchange (MARE) Adoption Navigator program, Foster Care Navigators are trained and experienced current and former foster parents who have navigated through their own foster care experiences. Each year, over 2,000 new family inquiries are received through the Foster Care Navigator program, of which over 150 families are actively engaged in Foster Care Navigator services and working toward foster parent licensure at any given time.

See this website for more information.

Foster Parent Focus Groups

Mississippi's diligent recruitment plan describes a recent effort whereby MDCPS hosted foster parent focus groups. A group of experienced foster parents were invited to meet with senior leadership at MDCPS’s state office, share their experiences as foster parents, and provide their input about needed improvements and what they would like to see in the future of Mississippi’s child welfare system. MDCPS intends to make this a regular practice going forward, though the frequency has not yet been decided. To facilitate this collaboration, MDCPS has created the position of Foster Parent Liaison. This dedicated staff person, in addition to organizing the foster parent focus groups, will travel the state to meet with foster parents, answer their questions, respond to their concerns, and solicit their feedback about MDCPS and the child welfare system.

For more information, see the state's diligent recruitment plan.

Clark County, Nevada Foster Parent Champions

The Foster Parent Champions program was started in 2012-13 in response to a need for peer support of foster parents. It employs ten part-time champions who work about 20 hours a week. Minimum qualifications include being a licensed foster parent for at least two years with no disruptions or investigations. Each champion has a unique set of skills, interests and experience, and so the program is able to support families with teens, infants, medically fragile children and sibling groups. The program was initially funded with a federal diligent recruitment grant. When the grant ended, the county Department of Family Services continued the program with its own funds after seeing the program’s results, which included a decrease in placement disruptions.

See the playbook for more information.

New Jersey Mobile Response and Stabilization Services (MRSS)

New Jersey created the Mobile Response and Stabilization Services (MRSS) to support children and families in crisis. Mobile response is delivered to children experiencing escalating emotional symptoms, behaviors, or traumatic circumstances that compromise their ability to function within their family, living situation, school, or community. The goal of MRSS is to provide intervention and support at the earliest moment families identify that help is needed. Under the MRSS intervention, administered by the New Jersey Department of Children and Families (DCF) as part of the Children’s System of Care, a behavioral health worker is available to any family in the state at any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Services offered include crisis de-escalation, in-home counseling, behavioral assistance, caregiver therapeutic support, intensive community-based services, skill-building and medication management. Mobile Response and Stabilization Services have consistently maintained over 94% of children in their placement at the time of service, including children who are involved with the child welfare system.

See this report from Casey Family Programs for more details.

Safe reduction of children in congregate care

New Jersey achieved a 45 percent reduction in the use of congregate care from 2009 to 2016. The significant decrease has not been the result of a single program or policy. Rather, the approach has been multifaceted and iterative and include strategies such as: 

    • Case practice model
    • Prioritizing relatives, family friends, and communities
    • Matching and preparation of children and families
    • Resource family recruitment
    • Resource family support and retention
See strategy brief by Casey Familly Programs for more information.

Foster Family Retention Plan

By 2018, New Jersey's Department of Children and Families had been so successful in its recruitment efforts that the number of licensed foster homes is more than double the number of children requiring placement in out-of-home care (approximately 14,000 beds are available in licensed foster homes versus 6,600 children in care). In addition to recruitment efforts, New Jersey adopted a new family model of care that included an extensive menu of support for foster, adoption, and kinship caregivers that has helped reduce the overall foster care population as well as dramatically reduce the number of children placed in congregate care.  This paradigm of resource home support, articulated in the New Jersey Resource Family Retention Plan, is very intensive, with multiple staff working to secure as many community resources as possible to help keep children in these family-based settings. DCF also provides peer supports to resource parents through an active mentoring program and a peer support helpline staffed by veteran resource families and run by Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care Call Center.

To learn more, see New Jersey's Resource Family Retention Plan

Trauma-informed foster parent training

The National Training and Development Curriculum for Foster and Adoptive Parents program is a a five-year federal grant project focused on developing a state-of-the-art training program to prepare foster and adoptive parents to care for children exposed to trauma. Intended outcomes include improved placement stability, improved permanency rates and enhanced child and family well-being. Seven states a tribal community have been selected to partner as pilot sites, including: Colorado, Missouri, Oklahoma, Illinois, Georgia, Florida, Kansas and Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community. 

See the project's website for more details.